Jun 22, 2012, 1:40 AM EDT
To a man, as they hugged the Larry O’Brien trophy, Miami Heat players said the sting of losing in the finals last year drove them to their win this year. They felt the pain, absorbed the lessons and got better.
As the clock was winding down and the party was winding up inside AmericanAirlines Arena Thursday night, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden stood together, huddled at the end of the bench talking. Saying exactly what Heat players said a year ago.
“We hugged each other and told each other to embrace this feeling and remember this feeling,” Westbrook said. “We’ve got to be the guys that just got to get better, man, before we can find a way to get back here.”
And everyone — including LeBron James, who said as much after the game — expect the Thunder will be back on this stage. And they will be better.
We’ve seen it before. For the past three years the Thunder have been eliminated by the eventual champion — first the Lakers, last year the Mavericks and this year the Heat. The previous two years the Thunder used those lessons to come back a smarter, more ready NBA team.
To a man after they were eliminated from the finals in Game 5 — a 121-106 Heat win — the Thunder players talked about what it will take to get back to here and be better next year.
“There’s things that wen have to work on,” coach Scott Brooks said. “I’ve never used age as an excuse. But we got some incredible experience these last three years of being the playoffs and it kind of – it has helped us get to this point and to compete at this level.”
The next step is on the defensive end for this team — they were a solid defensive team (OKC was ninth in the league in points allowed per possession) but the Heat won this series because they could find a level of defense the Thunder could not.
“But just one thing, (the Heat) played extremely physical basketball,” Brooks said. “They are a very athletic team and they use it every possession, and that’s something we will talk about. You have it, you better use it.”
There is also the focus that is needed.
“I think now we know that every possession in the finals matters. It counts,” James Harden said. “There were several possessions that we just gave away (in Game 5). I think that third quarter, we brought the lead out to five quick (it was 7), and then they hit two threes in a row. Every possession matters in the finals. We just gave too many away.”
They gave away a few all series. And that stung the Thunder. A lot. Thunder players all talked about being a family and you could see the tears and feel the emotion as they left the floor. You could see it as Kevin Durant talked to his mom. The key — the thing the Thunder’s three leaders were already talking about — was to use that as fuel.
“You just have a lot of regrets but the only thing you can do is get back to work,” Kendrick Perkins said. “And each individual has to think about it when you’re lifting weights, as you run suicides, just think about this feeling, think about this moment and how close we came. We just fell short.”
You get the sense this team will be back. And once again they will have learned a lesson. They will be better. And that could be scary good.
Jul 1, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT
Even if another team signs him to an offer sheet, the Warriors will just match it.
Jul 1, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT
Aldridge and Kobe Bryant didn’t quite click in their meeting.
Jul 1, 2015, 4:14 PM EDT
The Suns look like a team ready to run again.
Jul 1, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT
Boston gets nice value on a short-term frontcourt upgrade.
Jul 1, 2015, 3:09 PM EDT
The road to the NBA Finals out of the East — and maybe to the Larry O’Brien trophy itself — goes through Cleveland.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:55 PM EDT
Love returns, just as he maintained all season long.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT
Butler will remain in Chicago as expected.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:28 PM EDT
The Pelicans were +10 per 48 minutes with an offensive rating of 111.9 (points per 100 possessions) when Anthony Davis and Ajinca were paired last season.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:23 PM EDT
New York is getting an audience with all the big names.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:29 PM EDT
Nice get for Toronto, and a Hawks team that won 60 games is going to look very different next season.
Report: Spurs reach deal to trade Tiago Splitter to Hawks, create cap space for LaMarcus Aldridge offer
Jul 1, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT
The Spurs can now offer Aldridge the chance to return to his native Texas and walk right onto a serious title contender.
Jul 1, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT
That’s a great signing for San Antonio.
Report: Kobe Bryant was ‘very good’ in Lakers meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge, which went ‘really well’
Jul 1, 2015, 11:26 AM EDT
Lakers feel better about this one than previous meetings with Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:38 AM EDT
This was expected. But what happens with Dwyane Wade?
Jul 1, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT
A bit of a surprise.
Jul 1, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT
Solid move by Chicago at an extremely reasonable price.
Report: Blazers, Damian Lillard nearing agreement on five-year max contract extension worth $120 million
Jul 1, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Lillard’s worth it, but Portland right now really had no choice.
Jul 1, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
Prince played better than you’d think last season, but he will turn 36 this coming year.
Jul 1, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Does putting Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl in close proximity to each other for an entire NBA season seem like a good idea?
Jul 1, 2015, 3:11 AM EDT
The Bucks locked him up long-term after a breakout season.
- Report: LaMarcus Aldridge rules out Lakers in free agent decision 32
- Reports: Phoenix Suns sign Tyson Chandler, re-sign Brandon Knight, try to reshape roster 6
- Kevin Love will return to Cavaliers, contract is reportedly $110 million over five years 65
- Report: Spurs reach deal to trade Tiago Splitter to Hawks, create cap space for LaMarcus Aldridge offer 26
- Report: Heat, Goran Dragic agree to five-year deal worth $90 million 43
- Report: Paul Millsap had midnight meeting with Orlando, will decide between Magic and Hawks 17
- Report: Blazers, Damian Lillard nearing agreement on five-year max contract extension worth $120 million 17
- Report: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs reach deal for five-year, $90 million contract extension 19