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Three reasons this is not 2012 and the Thunder are not coming back on the Spurs

May 22, 2014, 3:11 AM EDT

Oklahoma City has been here before, exactly here, in 2012.

The San Antonio Spurs had won the first two games of the Western Conference Finals and seemed to be in control. On blogs and across talk radio there were questions about just how good the Thunder really were. Then suddenly the lightbulb went on over the Thunders’ head before Game 3 — “We’re way more athletic than these guys and we can overwhelm them on both ends of the court.” They did. Oklahoma City defended aggressively, won Game 3 by 20 and went on to sweep the Spurs right out of the series.

Thunder fans are hanging their hat on that again in 2014 — they turned it around against the Spurs before, they can do it again.

No. Not this time.

This time the Spurs are going to win this series and return to the NBA Finals. It will take four or five games, based on the fact they won the first two by a combined 52 points (it was 12 in 2012).

Here are three key reasons 2014 is not going to be a repeat of 2012.

1) No James Harden. Back in 2012 it was the heady days when the Thunder were a trio, not a duo. Harden came in off the bench but was the Thunder’s second leading scorer in that series, averaging 18.5 points a game with a true shooting percentage of .641 in those six games (Westbrook scored 18.3 but had an unimpressive true shooting percentage of .450). At the end of games OKC put the ball in Harden’s hands to create for Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, to guide the offense and share the ball. That third scorer no longer exists. That glue that got Durant and Westbrook to play with each other and not next to each other is gone. And it shows.

2) No Serge Ibaka. Thunder management made the call to pay Ibaka and not Harden, and while there are things you may question about that choice you can’t question how much Serge Ibaka means to the Thunder. Not now. On one end the Spurs have scored 120 points in the paint in two games, exploiting the lack of shot-blocking with Ibaka out with a calf injury (Scott Brooks should play more Steven Adams, but that doesn’t solve this issue). However, the Thunder miss Ibaka more on offense — they miss his baseline jumper to bail out Westbrook on drives, they miss his offensive putbacks, they miss his activity off the ball and his energy. They are not the same offensive team without Ibaka, thy are much easier to defend. And it shows.

3) The Spurs are much more athletic, much deeper now. When these teams met two years ago, the fourth leading scorer for the Spurs was an aging Stephen Jackson. Kawhi Leonard was still growing into the player his now, he was not a defensive force, he was not getting that much run. Tiago Splitter was not a guy Gregg Popovich trusted, now he starts and is a key defensive force. Splitter gives them a versatile big man who is a defensive anchor and can make a few plays on offense, too. Danny Green wasn’t getting many minutes, nor was Patty Mills. Bottom line is that the Spurs are still not the most athletic team in this series, but they closed the gap some. And it shows.

The Thunder can play better, make some adjustment (start Steven Adams and Caron Butler, for one) but this is a very different Spurs team from two years ago. One that is not going to let the Thunder roll them this time.

It’s not 2012.

  1. antistratfordian - May 22, 2014 at 3:20 AM

    It isn’t 2012, that is true. The Spurs looked scarier when they were up 2-0 on the Thunder in 2012 – they were undefeated in the playoffs and almost appeared unstoppable. The PBT article from then closed with this line: “If [the Thunder are] unable to win when their top three players combing for nearly 30 points apiece while shutting down the star from their series-opening loss, can there really be much hope left in the Oklahoma City locker room?”

    But it’s still the Spurs – so anything can happen.

    • spursareold - May 22, 2014 at 9:47 AM

      “The Spurs looked scarier when they were up 2-0 on the Thunder in 2012″

      Actually, not so much. They were on the streak, but the margins for the first two games were like 8 points and 3 points. The Spurs have had larger quarter differentials in each game so far than the TOTAL of the margins in the 2012 2-0 start.

      • antistratfordian - May 22, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        The 2012 Spurs were on a 20 game winning streak at the same point – they were actually 31-2 in their last 33 games. The 2014 Spurs are 13-8 in their last 21 games. They were taken to 7 games by an 8th seed.

    • azarkhan - May 22, 2014 at 11:09 AM

      And you’re still an idiot, so we can expect many more silly, meaningless comments about the San Antonio Spurs.

      • antistratfordian - May 22, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        What’s meaningless or silly about noting the Spurs recent history of let downs? No one thought it was funny when they had to play a 7th game against the 8th seed.

    • savvybynature - May 22, 2014 at 12:15 PM

      Dude, you really are pathetic. Are you really so intimidated by the Spurs that you have to come up with these creatively ludicrous ways to put them down in every Spurs article? I thought you insulted the Pacers so much because of the rivalry aspect, but now it’s clear you are just insecure.
      Just accept the fact that they are a great team, too. You can be a fan of the Heat even if they aren’t the best team ever, or even the best team right now, can’t you? Or are you such a bandwagon fan that you have to convince yourself they are by far the best ever?
      I think I’ll start referring to you as Smigel, and Lebron as your precious.

      • the1nonlyk - May 22, 2014 at 1:03 PM

        awesome and so true he seems to be the number 1 troll on these message boards

      • antistratfordian - May 22, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        Creatively ludicrous? That’s a very unique compliment.

        But there is nothing ludicrous about noting the Spurs recent history of let downs. That is simply fact. I don’t care if you like it or not – it won’t change it.

      • savvybynature - May 22, 2014 at 6:12 PM

        Yep, the Spurs are a bunch of chokers who just happened to get lucky and win four championships. Great point, Smigel. I think your Precious would like a fresh coating on his, um, car now.

      • antistratfordian - May 22, 2014 at 9:23 PM

        @savvybynature – You’re talking about 7 years ago. I’m talking recent history. We didn’t just jump from 2007 to 2014 – there were years in between.

        The Spurs team from 2007 doesn’t exist anymore.

    • zerole00 - May 22, 2014 at 1:32 PM

      The Thunder are down 2 of their best players since 2012. Their top 2 best have gotten better since then, but that’s not going to be enough against a team that plays team ball as well as the Spurs.

      • antistratfordian - May 22, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        That may very well be true. But it’s the Spurs… so it’s wise to take a wait and see approach.

  2. progress2011 - May 22, 2014 at 3:28 AM

    Did “Mrs. Cleo” psychic services help contribute to this blog.

    We can predict the future now, with 100% confidence.

    What ever happened to neutral/ objective reporting….smh

    • spursareold - May 22, 2014 at 8:20 AM

      You realized that you called it a blog, and then accused them of biased reporting,right?

      Blogs are not news media, they are the author’s thoughts.

      • progress2011 - May 22, 2014 at 9:23 PM

        Youareold…..

        It’s a blog because we are allowed to give OUR observations and opinions.

        However an author of an article, placed on the preeminent media/ news company such as NBC/ MSNBC, should have some resemblance of a Journalist.

        Otherwise, if the “Journalist/ Author” of the story on such a reputable site could be you!

        None of us would want that!

  3. zackd2 - May 22, 2014 at 3:34 AM

    Kevin Durant. “Not a winner” label is coming your way!!

    • savvybynature - May 22, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      Well, Westbrook has led his team in shots both games in this series so far.
      If he wants to jack the most shots, he should get the most blame imo. And he is shooting at a much lower percentage than KD too.

  4. newyorkball82 - May 22, 2014 at 7:20 AM

    @antistratfordian

    Whatever helps you sleep at night. IF the Heat advance to the finals. Which is not a sure thing. The spurs dominated the last series and are destroying OKC. The heat haven’t exactly been dominating anything in the last series or this one. They won by four the last game. They have another 3 hard games to win and are by no means a sure thing. This isn’t 2012 for the heat either, or 2013 for that matter.

  5. rkb555 - May 22, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    Well it remains to be seen. If OK protects home court (big if), they are right back in it and with an even series, anything is possible including another upset of the spurs. If the spurs split in OK it’s over; otherwise, u have a series on your hand.

  6. m4a188 - May 22, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    Spurs in 5.

  7. csbanter - May 22, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    The series is not over as Kenny Smith said on the post game Brooks should consider changing the lineup. Put Lamb and Jackson in starting five. Also why doesn’t he use Thabeet to at least take up some space in the paint. Wasn’t he a shot blocking force at UCONN thus being the #2 overall pick a few years back ?

    • spursareold - May 22, 2014 at 9:43 AM

      Thabeet is a scrub.

      • xLith - May 22, 2014 at 1:21 PM

        Hasheem “The Dream” Thabeet!!!!

  8. ningenito78 - May 22, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    And it shows.

  9. campcouch - May 22, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    A Kenny Smith mention! He hasn’t reminded us that he is from New York or that he played with Olajuwon in two games!

  10. birdsofprey305 - May 22, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    @ newyorkball82

    Why do you have a hard on for the heat? What are the knicks doing these days? I don’t think either teams are like the 2012 or 2013 Knicks. So keep wishing on the heat demise like all the haters lose while knicks flounder in obscurity. New Yawk!

  11. theebadguy - May 22, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Where is SptheMong @ now? They miss Ibaka most on the offensive end.

  12. iangas33 - May 22, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Who writes articles for this app?
    I have yet to read an article that isn’t riddled with grammatical and spelling mistakes. THE ONLY THING UOU HAVE TO DO IS WRITE ABOUT SPORTS AND THESE AUTHORS ARE CLEARLY FAILING

    • spursareold - May 22, 2014 at 3:31 PM

      You misspelled YOU, and you shouted at everyone.

  13. iangas33 - May 22, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Who writes articles for this app?
    I have yet to read an article that isn’t riddled with grammatical and spelling mistakes. THE ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO DO IS WRITE ABOUT SPORTS AND THESE AUTHORS ARE CLEARLY FAILING

    • xLith - May 22, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      Take a look in the mirror, bruh.

  14. bigmeechy74 - May 22, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    This is all Presti/brooks/owners fault. Trading Harden was one of the dumbest thing an NBA team has ever done. Plus their fascination with awful players like perkins/fisher/butler blows my mind

    • spursareold - May 22, 2014 at 3:32 PM

      The owners mandated NO LUXURY TAX. Presti is just doing what his boss says to do.

      • bigmeechy74 - May 22, 2014 at 10:46 PM

        There is no defending it. They had a nucleus of 4 guys all 23 and under that made the finals together. To break it up just to save a few bucks is ludicrous. They threw a potential dynasty in the garbage. Now they will never even win ONE

  15. jkaflagg - May 22, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    Really only one thing that matters – no Ibaka.

  16. newyorkball82 - May 22, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    @birdsofprey305

    When did I mention the Knicks? I’m commenting on the bias of the heat fans who think they are forever unbeatable. The spurs had them against the ropes last year, and this year they will beat them if they meet in the finals. That’s IF Miami can get past the pacers who beat them in game one. Not by 4, but by 11. Also not everyone from NY talks with a “new yawk” accent.

  17. whitwarren - May 23, 2014 at 3:26 AM

    I don’t think it’s impossible for us to win this series. Yes it’s looking like it would be very difficult to do… Yes ibaka, even just his presence alone, is a huge piece to our defense AND offense. But we swept the spurs in the season series 4-0 this year. And at least some of those wins were without Westbrook. Thunder Up. I ain’t given up until the Spurs have 4 wins.

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