Boris Diaw dismissed the years, and the pounds, the pudgy, past-his-prime forward serving as the spark the San Antonio Spurs desperately needed.
His statistics were fairly modest, but Diaw's heady play and nonstop energy propelled the Spurs to a 117-89 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Thursday night at the AT&T Center.
Diaw helped the Spurs get back to their brand of basketball after a pair of sluggish defeats. They will take a 3-2 lead into Game 6 on Saturday in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder has defeated the Spurs nine consecutive times.
Diaw finished with 13 points, six rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot, his strong play in the second quarter prompting San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich to reinsert him to start the third quarter, when the Spurs turned a somewhat tight game into a blowout.
Tim Duncan had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Manu Ginobili scored 19 points off the bench for the Spurs, who continued the series-long trend of the home team winning in blowout fashion.
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant scored 25 points and Russell Westbrook had 21 points and perhaps the best dunk of the playoffs on a one-handed, backboard-rattling jam, but they received meager support. Thunder guard Reggie Jackson scored 11 points in the first quarter but went scoreless the rest of the game.
With the Spurs comfortably ahead, Westbrook sat out the game's final 8 minutes 50 seconds, joining Durant on the bench.
Popovich was in classic deadpan mode before the game when asked how his team could stop the Thunder from running like it did in Game 4, when it outscored the Spurs, 21-0, in transition points.
"Make more baskets," Popovich said. "Don't turn it over. Those would be two good places to start."
San Antonio did both. The Spurs committed only 12 turnovers and made 39 of 76 shots (51.3%), including 13 of 26 (50%) from beyond the three-point arc.
Popovich started Matt Bonner in place of Tiago Splitter in an effort to shake up his struggling team, but it was Diaw who provided the boost the Spurs needed.
They got back to traditional Spurs basketball in the second quarter, with an unexpected twist: the 32-year-old Diaw serving as one of the primary facilitators.