May 1, 2010, 9:35 AM EDT
Bet you never thought you’d wind up missing Oklahoma.
Oklahoma City brought something else to these playoffs. The crowd was part of it. A sea of blue (and once, white) that wrought a college atmosphere with an NBA intensity. A full house, stocked to the brim of maniacs, devoted under one cause, the continued survival and advancement of their team.
The team was part of it. Little known youngsters, often questioned for their individual weaknesses in the face of incredible talent and maturity. Russell Westbrook blowing by defenders to attack the rim over and over again. Serge Ibaka making so many blocks the court became a Tetris board. And Kevin Durant, shakey as he was in several games, shining in two games like the star he is, ripping apart the Lakers at the seams with genuine, unfiltered scoring ability.
And part of it was just the circumstances. David versus Goliath. The small market youngsters versus the veteran champions from the big and shiny Los Angeles. It was scripted so perfectly for the fairytale ending. And it gave us a few days of wondering “What if?” What if the Thunder could actually eliminate THE Lakers?
But this isn’t the NCAA and here, Cinderalla gets shoved down the stairs in her dress and tossed back home to clean the floors.
The Thunder fell because they faced a superb collection of athletes, with length, scoring ability, defensive savvy, and did I mention length? Because man alive, those guys are tall. The Thunder will likely try and identify a low-post scoring presence in the offseason. Already, rumors have begun of a possible Bosh-Durant team-up, the likes of which are supremely unlikely and utterly terrifying for the rest of the league. One way or another, though, the Thunder must find a way to combat the sheer size the fell into, and to, in their first playoff appearance. You can’t out-yell tall and talented. Not forever, anyway.
But you have to believe there’s something special going on in OKC. A crowd that resembles the finest Seventh Day Adventist tongue-speaking revival you’ll see. A team with absurd talent, all barely old enough to drink with few exceptions, and oh yeah, three draft picks in the first 32 selections for Sam Presti.
This series may not have showed us the lightning of a championship run, but we heard the Thunder.
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