The Oklahoma City Thunder overcame an 18-point first half deficit to beat the San Antonio Spurs 107-99 to advance to the NBA Finals on Wednesday night. The Thunder trailed by 15 points at half time, but fueled by Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook, they made a huge run early in the third quarter to close the gap. It was remarkable how quickly they erased San Antonio’s lead, and how quickly they found themselves in the midst of a physical battle that had a ticket punched to the NBA Finals.
Durant, as always, was fantastic. He scored 34 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and dished out 5 assists as he led OKC’s comeback. Russell Westbrook wasn’t far off as he racked up 25 points, 8 boards, and 5 assists.
The Thunder looked the part of champions on Wednesday night. They may have been blitzed by Tony Parker’s first half brilliance (21 points and 12 assists at half time), but the defensive pressure they applied in the second half was magnificent. They stalled the best offense in the NBA, and they did it with flare. Leak outs for dunks, fast breaks, all of it was in play as OKC roared back to take what was theirs.
What really killed the Spurs, however, was their defense. They got a huge night from Stephen Jackson who finished 6-7 from beyond the arc for 23 points, and a serviceable night from Duncan who tallied 25 points and 14 rebounds as he abused Serge Ibaka in the post. Still, their inability to get stops and close out on three point shooters proved to be too much to overcome. That, and the fact that Manu Ginobili only scored 10 points on the night.
Again, it was a coming of age moment for the Thunder, the kind that we’ve all been waiting for. The Spurs deserve their credit though, they came out with guns blazing and gave us the best playoff series we’ve seen since the Bulls and Celtics played a gorillion overtimes in 2009 (or as I like to remember, the Hawks-Celtics 2008 series as the best series of all time. Even though we lost.) The level of basketball in this series was just ridiculously high. The best we’ve seen in ages. The ball movement, the offensive efficiency, the pace– everything was just so brilliant, and it’s a shame the series is over, really. I want more of that, and I’m terribly afraid if Boston ends up beating Miami that we’ll have: A) a boring finals because OKC will win in 5; and/or B) more of that lousy style of basketball that Boston plays. I don’t know how the Celtics keep winning, but I do know how the Thunder do it. They’re offensive fire power is unmatched, and a series against the Heat would put that theory to the test. Ignoring all the narrative story lines the media would be suckling at, think of the defensive match ups: LeBron on Durant, Wade on Westbrook, Battier on Harden. Miami has the clear defensive advantage, but for the first time in the playoffs they wouldn’t have the 2 best players on the court. They’d have the 1st, 4th, and 5th, while Thunder would have the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th. You tell me which one you’d rather have.
Of course, all of that is premature. Miami is in the process of digging their own grave, so lets see if they dig their way out of it and save the finals at the same time. Anyway, congrats to the Thunder who played won one of the most dazzling series I’ve ever seen. It was a pleasure Oklahoma City and San Antonio. It’s too bad it had to end. It was just getting good.
Tags: Boston Celtics James Harden Kevin Durant LeBron James Manu Ginobili Miami Heat Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook San Antonio Spurs Serge Ibaka Shane Battier Stephen Jackson Tim Duncan Tony Parker