The Oklahoma City Thunder‘s road to recovery continues Tuesday night in Game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs. The last time these teams met in the playoffs, the Thunder fell behind 0-2 and went on a four-game winning streak to win the 2012 Western Conference Finals en route to their first trip to the NBA Finals since the franchise had players like Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Now the Thunder continue to seek their first championship since the 1970s. They’re in a familiar position and seem to have been awakened by the return of Serge Ibaka.
Without Ibaka in the lineup, OKC had a lot to fear. With their rim protector back, the Thunder are as hopeful as ever and it shows in their play. Can the Thunder do what they did against the Spurs in 2012 and win the series after falling behind 0-2?
If the Thunder are going to shock the world with one of the greatest triumphs in franchise history, then they will need Kevin Durant to return to his superstar status. Durant has been good, but not great. He needs a to come through with a statement game, scoring 40 or more points to send the Spurs a message. Game 4 is the perfect time for Durant to put the stamp on the envelope and deliver the message to San Antonio. Will it be easy? No, not by any means; nothing comes easy in the playoffs this year, nor any year prior. Durant has to be willing to be the aggressor rather than waiting for opportunities. Legendary players make opportunities, while great players take advantage of the opportunities as they come.
If the Thunder are going to make their second trip to the NBA Finals in a three-year span, then they will need Russell Westbrook to tone down his scoring and focus on setting up other scorers. The more Westbrook has the ball, the more dangerous the Thunder are as a team. What hurts is that Westbrook tends to take too many shots when he has the ball rather than using his ability as a facilitator. He can pick and choose his spots to attack, but opportunities to set up teammates are limited for the Thunder. If Westbrook can focus on controlling the ball and passing it instead of using his time with the ball to score, then the Thunder can and will defeat the Spurs.
The Thunder bench has been up and down in this year’s playoffs; if that unit can find a way to be more consistent then the Thunder will be unstoppable, but only if the aforementioned things can fall in place as well. It will take a lot of work for everything to come together after starting off in the hole, but we’ve all seen the Thunder put the puzzle together in rather impressive stretches during the regular season and the playoffs.
It isn’t a matter of how but more like when. “When” can be too late, so now is the time for OKC to start gelling. It all starts with the Thunder’s starters getting back on track, and that will inspire the bench players to get their act together because it puts the outcome in their hands. Failure isn’t an option for either of the Thunder’s units.
The last game was well played by OKC, and if the Thunder can mimic their Game 3 performance in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, then they will be on their way to San Antonio with the series tied all while seizing control of the momentum.