Jun 5, 2012, 12:41 AM EDT
The conventional wisdom coming into this series was that the younger, less experienced Thunder might well not stand up to the level of play the battle tested Spurs were at.
But the Thunder have plenty of experience, too. We thought all season they were the team to beat in the West, that didn’t change until San Antonio got hot. The Thunder have been together for years, they have grown through the playoffs each year. They’ve become battle tested. They have added guys like Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher who have have rings. Even in these playoffs we have seen them evolve.
The Thunder are ready. They showed it Monday night in Game 5.
San Antonio played the game of a desperate team — they altered the starting lineup that had so recently won 10 straight playoff games, they played with spurts of incredible tenacity. San Antonio wanted this.
Oklahoma City withstood the storms, made their plays, came back and went on to win 108-103 (Stephen Jackson‘s last shot three was waived off) and take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals. OKC can close it out Wednesday night at home and advance to the NBA finals.
There comes a time in every series where the coach who realizes it is really slipping away from him starts making desperate moves with his lineup. When he’s willing to try anything to find a combination that works, to change the pace. It almost never works.
For Game 5 Gregg Popovich inserted Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup. He early on tried small lineups. It worked for a minute and the Spurs were up 8 quickly.
But the Thunder are experienced, they do not rattle easily, even on the road. They responded with a 9-0 run of their own and took the lead back before the end of the first quarter. As it had the last couple games, the athleticism of the Thunder disrupted the Spurs offense. The Spurs were out of synch. Their decisions were slow, the ball movement not crisp. Do that and the long, athletic Thunder can recover and contest shots. San Antonio shot just 39.5 percent in the first half with 11 turnovers. Yet they were only down 8, 52-44 at the break.
The start of the second half was like the start of the first, Ginobili was knocking down everything — he finished with 34 points on 21 shots. Tony Paker was defending Russell Westbrook the length of the court and the Spurs were hot, and 18-4 run. They took the lead, they looked like the old Spurs.
And the Thunder weathered the storm. Like a veteran team. They retook the lead, just like they did in the first half. Their defense was good enough, their offense was too much for the Spurs to stop. Kevin Durant had 27 points, Westbrook 23, Harden 20 on just 11 shots (including the dagger four point play). As a team, the Thunder shot 50 percent.
They were flat out better.
Call it a passing of the torch if you want, but we knew all season OKC was the team to beat. And it’s not like the Spurs passed the torch — OKC has ripped it out of their hands. They cranked up the defensive pressure, their offensive ball movement has taken a leap forward, they have been stellar.
They have been what we expect of contenders. And now they are one win away from the finals. Which they earned.
Mar 17, 2014, 3:58 PM EDT
Carmelo Anthony doesn’t really wants to leave the Knicks, he just wants to see a path to a title. Phil Jackson may be that path.
Mar 17, 2014, 3:27 PM EDT
After injuring his neck against the Pacers he is out against the Nuggets Wednesday and maybe longer. Pistons should not rush him back.
Mar 17, 2014, 2:33 PM EDT
Steve Kerr tried to dodge questions about the New York Knicks coaching job while in the Dan Patrick Show Monday.
Mar 17, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT
The Spurs and Clippers have distanced themselves from the pack with double-digit winning streaks and sit on top. The Sixers have anchored themselves to the bottom.
Mar 17, 2014, 1:03 PM EDT
Gooden has given Washington a dangerous, hot-shooting lineup.
Mar 17, 2014, 12:14 PM EDT
You know the game is a blowout when one of the league’s worst free throw shooters gets to take a technical foul shot.
Mar 17, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT
Rondo tries to take the blame for Boston’s overtime loss to the Pelicans. But he wasn’t the one guarding Anthony Davis.
Mar 17, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT
He’s insanely good. And he’s just 21.
Mar 17, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
After one year at Duke, the 6’8″ forward with three point range is looking at the NBA.
Mar 17, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT
The 2012 draft already looks like it will go down as one of the NBA’s stronger ones ever. Andre Drummond is incredibly promising. Damian Lillard won Rookie of the Year and is even better this season. But there’s no doubt, if the draft were re-done, Anthony Davis would remain the No. 1 pick. Days like…
Mar 17, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
Stephen Curry is a bad, bad man.
Mar 17, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
One in four shots in an NBA Game this season has been a three. That number is only going to go up.
Mar 17, 2014, 3:00 AM EDT
The Cleveland Cavaliers made the playoff their firm goal, started poorly, traded for Luol Deng, fired their general manager, re-affirmed their playoff priority and backed it up by trading for Spencer Hawes. By winning the first two games of their current road trip – at Phoenix, at Golden State – the Cavaliers finally looked like…
Mar 17, 2014, 2:57 AM EDT
Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching the King of the Hill/True Detective mashup… Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors. Early in the third quarter Houston took an 18 point lead over Golden State and seemed to be in complete control. Then the shots from Warriors backcourt started to…
Mar 17, 2014, 1:00 AM EDT
Golden State and Portland are in the packed middle of the Western Conference playoff race, coming into the game the Warriors were the six seed, 2.5 games back of the Trail Blazers. Both teams needed a win and this game had a real playoff feel, with the Trail Blazers leading by 18 and the Warriors…
Mar 16, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
A report says the Cavaliers would have been interested in hiring Phil Jackson, which is interesting because it’s likely a position he never would have even considered.
Mar 16, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
DeMar DeRozan expressed his displeasure over a non-call by kicking the ball away from a referee — a move which guaranteed him a quick whistle in the form of a technical foul.
Mar 16, 2014, 7:41 PM EDT
Midway through the third quarter you had to like how the Rockets were playing against the Heat in Miami. Tied 92-92, the Rockets got what seemed like their 5,347th floater in the lane of the night, this time it was Chandler Parsons over Chris Andersen. The Rockets players did not fear the Heat shot blockers…
Mar 16, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Patrick Beverley leaves LeBron James in the dust, before attacking the rim and throwing down a huge slam on Chris Bosh.
Mar 16, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
LeBron takes a nice pass from Wade and elevates over Dwight Howard for the vicious first quarter slam.
- Carmelo Anthony says Phil Jackson makes Knicks more attractive, he would adapt style of play 0
- NBA Power Rankings: Spurs, Clippers are your clear top two 4
- The Extra Pass: This season’s record number of threes is just the start 8
- Sunday NBA grades: Golden State’s Curry, Thompson put on a show 8
- Heat execute in final minutes, Rockets still learning, fall in Miami 20