Jun 7, 2012, 12:16 AM EDT
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.
Apr 16, 2014, 2:42 AM EDT
Chris Paul and J.J. Redick look good as Clippers ready for playoffs.
Apr 16, 2014, 12:40 AM EDT
Poor Evan Fournier is on the wrong end of a highlight that’s going to get shown a lot for a few days. At least.
Apr 15, 2014, 11:46 PM EDT
Video of one player executing a crossover that drops another player to the floor — you know you’re watching.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:31 PM EDT
Sick pass, monster slam.
Joe Johnson says he shouldn’t have been laughing on bench during blowout loss to Knicks earlier in season
Apr 15, 2014, 9:16 PM EDT
Joe Johnson says Jeff Van Gundy’s criticism of his behavior was spot-on.
Apr 15, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT
Mike D’Antoni had no idea how beating the Jazz on Monday would negatively impact his team’s Draft Lottery chances. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Apr 15, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT
Anthony is out for the rest of the season but will not be surgery and will be good to go next season.
Apr 15, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT
Just 7-8 minutes before, Cedric Maxwell had stood next to one of the people killed in the Boston Marathon bombing, but he decided to go inside and get warm.
Apr 15, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT
With nothing on line Pacers going to rest key guys… except Hibbert.
Apr 15, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT
It’s not something you could ever prove (and the Nets may not even do it), but they could rest guys in hopes of falling into a first-round matchup with Toronto.
Apr 15, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
Damian Lillard doesn’t want to end up like all those players without rings. The ones sitting in his living room.
Apr 15, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT
Two general managers make all three ballots, one tops each
Apr 15, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT
Award honors ‘outstanding service and dedication to the community’
Apr 15, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT
It was just a fender bender, the good news is nobody got hurt. However, Chandler Parsons was delayed getting to the Toyota Center for the Rockets game Monday when he got into an accident. And then the other driver found out who he was and… I will let Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tell…
Apr 15, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
And Burke is one of the best rookies in this class….
Carmelo Anthony questionable against Nets tonight, but not if Mike Woodson has anything to say about it
Apr 15, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
Melo, a pending free agent, could be done playing for Knicks
Apr 15, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
We know for sure the Pacers play the Hawks in the first round, and we know the Rockets and Blazers will meet. After that all the matchups are still up in the air.
Apr 15, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT
Knicks forward come become free agent this offseason
Apr 15, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT
Rockets guard known for defense, anyway, right?
Apr 15, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT
Noah’s good feelings end in 3, 2, 1…
- Tuesday NBA grades: Chris Paul looks playoff ready 0
- Carmelo Anthony has torn labrum, Knicks shut him down for season 13
- Celtics’ legend Cedric Maxwell stood in location of Boston Marathon bombing just minutes before 1
- 2014 PBT Awards: Executive of the Year 25
- Playoff Chase: We know all 16 teams going to dance, who dances with whom still up in air 13