The Oklahoma City Thunder Grew Up and Rattled Their Elders
There was a very simple reason that the San Antonio Spurs were going to win the Western Conference Finals over the Oklahoma City Thunder; experience. This played out through the first two games as the Spurs’ calmness and smart play in the fourth quarter trumped a sporadic Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder. However, something changed in game three as the Thunder grew up and controlled the play. It was the one thing no one had done against the Spurs during their 20 game winning streak. Once the Thunder accomplished that they could not lose.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were tired of being pushed around in game three when they returned to their home floor. They used the energy of their crowd to establish a dominance over the Spurs that led to a 14 point lead heading into the second half. The Spurs had controlled the Thunder up to this point, but Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s combined speed and athletic ability along with Thabo Sefolosha defense on Tony Parker were the keys.
Shutting down Parker was key in this series. Tim Duncan had to deal with shot blockers galore that included Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. So taking out either Parker or Manu Ginobli was key. Doing both in game three gave the Thunder a chance to take the series back into their own hands.
From there, the series really boiled down to controlling the game late. The Thunder were relentless, forcing turnovers and hustling back to deny the Spurs easy baskets. Their calm in transition meant that the aging Spurs could no longer catch their breath and control play. Even being down double digits at halftime in game six did not phase the Thunder. They fought back for a quarter and then controlled play in the final 12 minutes of the series.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks deserves a lot of credit. After being hounded as a hack through two games, he found a weakness on a team that had one of the greatest 50 games stretches in NBA history. The Spurs have four hall of famers, including coach Greg Poppovich, but they had nothing left to throw at a Thunder team that has a guy to fill every role. Bring on the Heat, bring on the Celtics. The Thunder are all grown up and ready to battle.