After game two of the 2012 NBA Western Conference Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs, it seemed like the series was firmly in the Spurs’ control as they led 2-0. It seemed like the Thunder were going to be just too young and inexperienced to make it to the NBA Finals. But then something happened.
In Oklahoma City for game three, the Thunder hit another level. They stopped being a team that was going to be great and realized their potential. Oklahoma City absolutely dominated the Spurs on both ends of the floor, scoring 102 points on 45.5 percent shooting, out-rebounding San Antonio 44-41, holding the Spurs to just 82 points on paltry 39.5 percent shooting and forcing them to commit an absurd 21 turnovers.
The Thunder never looked back, winning the next four games and advancing to the NBA Finals. Sure, they met the Miami Heat and fell short of winning the title, but they made it clear that they were here to stay.
They’ve continued making that point this season as Oklahoma City has the NBA’s best record at 39-12, leads the league in points per game (106.4), are third in the league in field goal percentage (48.1 percent) and rank second in the NBA in opposing field goal percentage (42.9 percent). It’s been fascinating to watch how they have torn through the league this season.
Their tear this season has never been more evident than in their current four-game winning streak. In those four games, they’ve outscored their opponents by a combined 101 points, which averages out to a winning margin of more than 25 points per game. The Thunder don’t just beat you with the offense of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They also play superb defense with those two guys and their defensive anchor, Serge Ibaka.
With this tear that they’re on, the only question that anyone can really ask about this team is if anyone can stop the Thunder from returning to the finals.
The Spurs are once again enjoying regular season success and are only one game behind Oklahoma City in the standings. The two teams have also met twice already this season and split the pair of games. However, the first time they met was the first game the Thunder played this season, which was also their first game without James Harden. They still only lost by two points.
Even more crucial when considering how the Spurs matchup with the Thunder is the youth of Oklahoma City in comparison to an aging San Antonio team. There’s no denying that the Spurs know how to maximize what they have in their team and succeed. However, the fact that they are maximizing their performance now doesn’t bode well for them. The Thunder, even with how dominant they’ve been, still seem like they have another level that they can push it to. They aren’t even close to fifth gear yet.
If the Thunder were to take it to that other level again against the Spurs, San Antonio wouldn’t stand a chance. Oklahoma City just has too much firepower, on display and in their arsenal, on both sides of the ball for the Spurs to be able to hang with them.
Essentially, the Thunder are a juggernaut in the West. The part about that that should frighten the Spurs and other potential contenders is that Oklahoma City doesn’t even look like they have unleashed all that they can throw at opponents. But when they do so, which will most likely be in the playoffs, there’s no one tripping them up on their way to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row.