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Thunder-Spurs Game 6: Oklahoma City proves it’s ready, advances to finals

Jun 7, 2012, 12:16 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder's Durant drives to the basket against San Antonio Spurs' Ginobili and Parker during the second half of Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference basketball finals in Oklahoma City

Since the 1999 season, only three teams have represented the Western Conference in the NBA finals — the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs.

In the first round of the 2012 playoffs, the Thunder crushed Dallas. In the second round they showed they were well ahead of the Lakers.

And on Wednesday night they proved they are ready to be champions. They showed they are the worthy continuation of that legacy.

The Thunder came back from 18 down, 15 at the half against a veteran and feisty Spurs team to win 107-99 and take the series 4-2. After the Spurs won 20 games in a row the Thunder picked up their play at both ends — their defense cut off dribble penetration and their offensive ball movement improved — and OKC swept the Spurs out of the playoffs in four straight. There was nothing Gregg Popovich or the Spurs could do about it — the Thunder were the better team.

The NBA finals will begin Tuesday in Oklahoma City (they had a better record than either team left in the Eastern Conference).

San Antonio did not go easily or quietly — they made adjustments to free up Tony Parker and get him penetrating again and the Spurs raced out to an early lead. Parker initiated his offense earlier and when he did wait for the high pick the player (Tim Duncan, usually) came from farther away off the baseline to make the Thunder bigs cover more ground. It worked. Parker had 17 points in the first quarter alone (he finished with 29) and the Spurs led by 18 at one point in the first quarter and 15 at the half.

We tend to think of these Spurs as young — Kevin Durant is just 23 and their core is all under 25 — but they have been through the playoff wars. And they used that youth and veteran skill to change the second half. Once again the long arms and fast legs of the Thunder seemed to be in the way of every Spurs player.

“We can’t have their legs, we can’t have their energy,” the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili said after the game in a televised press conference. “I can’t jump as high.”

The Thunder have grown up — they grew up in this series as their ball movement improved game to game. They withstood the Spurs storm in Game 5 and in this game you knew a second half run was coming.

Oklahoma City did it with defense — they are long and athletic and disrupt shots and passing lanes. They close out fast. They took away the Spurs easy looks. The Spurs shot 32 percent in the third and were outscored 14, they shot 33 percent in the third and were outscored by nine.

Durant led the charge with 14 of his 34 in the third quarter when the Spurs lead disappeared. But it was every Thunder player — Westbrook slashing through the lane, James Harden with a key wing three, Derek Fisher doing what he does in big games with a three from the corner. It was a team win.

Right now, the Thunder are playing better than either team out of the East. They have the athleticism to match the Heat, and Boston’s offense has not had to deal with this kind of length and athleticism. OKC has an amazing offense, a good defense, great young talent…

And they are not wide-eyed kids. They have paid their dues the past three years, learning how win, how to get here.

Right now the Thunder are poised to win the NBA title. It’s not that simple, but it’s theirs for the taking.

  1. cakemixa - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    Thumbs up if you think the refs were a little biased towards OKC.

    • passerby23 - Jun 7, 2012 at 3:35 AM

      The refereeing has been awful in the playoffs, particularly in the Boston-Miami series. The refs did not decide this game. The Spurs were consistently outplayed 4 straight games and settled for jump shots on tired legs the entire second half.

      Ginobili is the biggest flopper in the league and gets all kinds of calls. Stephen Jackson got two phantom calls on 3-point attempts. It’s true, Harden embellished two fouls, but they were fouls.

      Give the Thunder credit. They were better. And they will be too deep, too athletic, too battle-tested, and too good at home for either Boston or Miami in the finals.

  2. isujames - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    I saw this coming,the Spurs played well above what I expected of them,they had a good season and I expect to see Okc vs. Mia.Heat in 6

    • iknowzeroaboutsports - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:19 AM

      You mean vs. Boston.

  3. funktron2x - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:24 AM

    I don’t think it was outright bias, but it was a bad time to not get the calls. The Harden flops were killer. Second would have been a kawhi 3. Anyway, though, article hits nail on head. Thunder grew up this series. Spurs forced them to. Now they are not just wickedly talented and possessing the most unstoppable player in the game – but now they are galvanized and understand the nuances of sharing, rotating adjusting and rising to the big moment. From a lifelong Spurs fan, kudos to the Thunder. More than earned it.

    • monkeyhateclean - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:48 AM

      Since you are a self-proclaimed Spurs fan, it should not need to be explained to you that SA’s success in the last 10 years hinged almost completely on consistently terrible calls by refs, spurred (no pun intended) by the outrageous overreactions of Tim “Who, ME?!” Duncan et al., rather than skill at basketball.

      As such, Spurs fans automatically relinquish any use the word “flop” when referring to players on a team other than their own. Try to keep up.

    • ndnpaint - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:00 AM

      Tim Duncan said himself after the game… the more aggressive team usually get the calls. Honestly everyone has an argument with those refs, they didn’t seem to be able to keep up with the games at any point in this series. It really boiled down to who wanted it more or who was the better team, you kind of have to make your own choice.

  4. gopokes0714 - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:32 AM

    The home team always get the calls. And you want to talk about flops, watch the Spurs in the last game. It was like the only strategy they had was to try and foul everyone out.

    Stop being a sore loser, the better team advanced. No offense to the Spurs, they are clearly a great team.

  5. monkeyhateclean - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:36 AM

    OKC is an easy team to root for. No room for egos. No patience for whiners. No need for “alphas”. Just a collection of players in supreme concert with each other. As much as I’d like my club to land them, it will be sad if Harden and/or Ibaka don’t stay.

    Conversely, the Heat appear to be a collection of caustic personalities with ill-suited skills that just don’t mesh…an island of misfit toys, if you will. Lebron’s Cavaliers would run Lebron’s Heat out of the gym, and that makes “the decision” all the more embarrassing.

  6. redbullenergydrink - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    NO ONE predicted this after the Spurs went up 2-0. Unbelievable OKC team! Trip to the finals is warranted.

    • 00maltliquor - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:48 AM

      I did. Except I thought the Thunder would take it in 7 instead of 6.

  7. drewsylvania - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    Not a fan of either team or the NBA in general, but…why should it be accepted that the home team always gets the calls? Especially in a league where it’s often easy to see the bias and which has already had refs fixing games.

    • drewsylvania - Jun 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM

      Hahahahaha you guys are a riot.

  8. lyndseymarieee - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:49 AM

    I’m a Thunder fan and I’ll be the first to admit that some of those calls at the end were a bit absurd. Especially the one where Ginobili “fouled” Harden while setting a pick. That one was super weak. And that takes a lot for me to say because I really can’t stand Ginobili. He’s one of the biggest floppers out there so maybe he had it coming.

    At the end of the day though, it didn’t matter what the refs called. OKC outplayed the Spurs and there is simply no arguing that. They had the answers and San Antonio didn’t.

    • passerby23 - Jun 7, 2012 at 3:42 AM

      Come on, dude. Of all the calls you could complain about, you’re picking that one? It was a blatant moving screen in which Harden was running full bore to chase his man and was decked by Ginobili. I’m the first one to say the officiating in the playoffs has been highly suspect, but that call was obvious.

      And the reason they committed those fouls is because OKC’s defense was ramped up and SA was a bit rushed to get a clean look. Lockdown defense leads to things like moving screens (more than usual) to free guys up. Credit the Thunder defense, don’t blame the refs for that.

      • lyndseymarieee - Jun 8, 2012 at 6:33 PM

        That’s the first play that popped into my head and really the only one that sticks out to me (now that’s it’s been a few days since the game). I thought it was a clean play. Ginobili may have leaned in to him a bit but I didn’t see an obviously shuffle of the feet to get in front of Harden. I know they play good defense. I’m not trying to take away from that. I know they won because they are the better team.

        I’m also not saying all fouls were called in favor of the Thunder. There were plenty of calls that went for the Spurs in other games.

  9. pistolpete0903 - Jun 7, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    Ginobli hit the nail right on the head. They simply gassed out at the end.

  10. philadelphiafan - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:13 AM

    Congrats to the Thunder! I hope they can win it all.

  11. iamronniereyes - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:15 AM

    haha. you keep mentioning Spurs when you are actually referring to the Thunder. wake up!

  12. soonerborn - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:22 AM

    If this franchise was still the Sonics, they’d been at home watching the Western Conf. Championship on tv. I don’t wanna hear “poor Seattle” ever again- this is OKC’s team! Ask THEM. Four years, NBA finals! THUNDER UP, BABY!!

  13. storebrandcookies - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:24 AM

    Derek Fisher has a chance to have more rings than Kobe.

    • passerby23 - Jun 7, 2012 at 3:43 AM

      Great signing that was. I didn’t think Fisher would make much of an impact on OKC other than leadership, but his play has been rock solid. Does he retire with another ring?

    • pglive21 - Jun 7, 2012 at 9:50 AM

      So what? Robert Horry has more rings than Jordan or Kobe or Duncan. All it means is that he latched onto teams where he wasn’t expected to do much (and he really didn’t) with the exception of hitting the very occasional big shot. He was never a great player, just a decent one who found himself in good situations. Just like Fisher.

  14. detroitcityryda - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    So Bron bron chokes again no title for the heat yet again (ohh poor heat fans😥)and thunder as deserved are the new champs,old Boston farts got no chance running up and down the court with okc this team will rule the west in the next 5-6 years they remind of the pistons 04-5 who were all down for the team and appeared in the eastern conf 5 years straight if I’m not mistaken ,except I see okc winning at least 3 trophies in the near future as they have not 1 but 2 stars plus a great supporting cast like no other in the league something pistons lacked because joe dumars drafted Darko milicic instead of bosh,Anthony,or wade where 1 of these guys would have gave Detroit 3 rings Instead of just one and all the losses to heat,celtics in ECF’s and spurs in the final where they lacked that clutch star shooter thunder have in both westbrook 2 pistols Wayne And Kevin 2 chains e durantulla .

  15. soonerborn - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:47 AM

    If this francise was still the “Sonics”, they’d watched the playoffs on tv. I don’t ever wanna hear “poor Seattle” again- this is OKC’s team! Ask THEM. Four years to the Finals. THUNDER UP, BABY!!

  16. 00maltliquor - Jun 7, 2012 at 2:11 AM

    Now THAT’S how you build a team! Unbelievable scouting and drafting. Impecable patience with not rushing to sign a big name free agent just because there was cap room, instead, opting to keep the space to re-sign their young studs in the future. I’m very impressed, congrats to OKC. LAKERS, Spurs and even the Mavs had it on LOCK for over a decade. Now the Thunder are going to be your new model for many, many years.

    I can’t help but feel for Fans of the Sonics back in Seattle though! Man I bet you they bitter. Durant is only 23 too! Psssh!

    And hells yeah, Fish gonna get a 6th ring! That’s kinda cool for me. IDC who’s coming out the East, Thunder are winning that trophy. In the beginning of the year I had the Heat taking it all, but now…not so much. They will make it to the finals though. Thunder in 6.

    Kinda gotta feel a bit for Spurs fans too, they got the rug straight YANKED from up under ‘em! This was, to me, the best SAS team I’ve ever seen and it looked like they might get yet another trophy in the Duncan era. I bet SAS fans were tasting the finals for sure after the 2nd game clinic the Spurs ran. I wonder what’s worse to them, having the best record last year only to get taken out the 1st rd. by an 8th seed or this year being up with a dominating 2-0 lead in the WCF only to get sweept the next 4.

    Damn, and whats neat about all this is that the Thunder took out all 3 teams that been runnin’ s#!t the last dozen years in all three WC rounds just to make it to the big show. Talk about EARNING your spot! Wow!

  17. seahawksbmx - Jun 7, 2012 at 2:33 AM

    As a Sonics fan, the feeling I have tonight is the same I had following SB XL.

  18. yanivvinay - Jun 7, 2012 at 2:41 AM

    I’m sorry, but I have to harp on this sites editing. You use “Spurs” in places that should say “Thunder”. Please fix this. I mean this is bigger than a brain fart. It’s like brain diarrhea.

  19. packhawk04 - Jun 7, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    Quit crying about officials. Man up once in awhile.

  20. kingrons8402 - Jun 7, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    The Thunder may be young and Durant maybe great but Pierce will have alot easier time scoring since lebron won’t be the one defending him. He can muscle Durant around all day, something he struggled with because Lebron is one strong SF.

  21. ddtla - Jun 7, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    Whoever said man up about the calls you don’t really watch the games another dumb blogger don’t like either team but once again okc got ridiculous calls to go their way

    • lyndseymarieee - Jun 8, 2012 at 1:14 AM

      The Spurs were up 18 at the half. They let the Thunder come back. Those few “missed” calls at the end don’t change that fact.

      We could talk all day long about the refs. There were calls in favor of the Spurs in other games throughout the series. The road went both ways.

  22. packhawk04 - Jun 7, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    I said man up, and i watched the game. I watched the spurs, the great, experienced spurs blow an 18 point lead. But a missed call or two is what did it..

    Man up.

  23. footballfan71 - Jun 7, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    Instead of feeling sorry for Sonics fans, say “thank you” to the crook of an x-owner who sold the team and to the elected officials who didn’t give a rip if there was a team or not. The Sonics fans never gave up on trying to keep them here – not their fault. The city council gave up and sold-out on the fans. Thunder fans, enjoy this feeling. Savor it. Kudos to the team mgmt for taking what was in Seattle, and building an ever better team. Fans are only bitter because they miss having a team. It’s tough after 30+ years.

    Now maybe the sting of “what we could have had” will bite the Seattle city council during election time.
    Good luck in the finals Thunder!

  24. kingrons8402 - Jun 7, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    I like Van Gundys viewpoint he made in the last Boston Heat game, fine floppers like Harden or Ginoboli like a million dollars because it is ridiculous. Harden is easily getting close to Manu on the flopping list.

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