Being down 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals gave the Oklahoma City Thunder only one option on how last nights game could go. It was a must win scenario, and every Thunder player played as if this was a win or go home game. OKC dominated on both ends of the floor, not only ending the Spurs 20-game winning streak, but also holding the Spurs to a season low in points (82) as well as a playoff high in turnovers (21). With a 102-82 victory, Oklahoma City proved that if anyone can keep up with team “Spurfection” then it’s them.
“We just played a good basketball game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We played with a lot of force, we played with good energy, but we played defensive-minded basketball. That’s who we are. That’s how we win.”
The Thunder have had an extremely successful season and most of the credit is given to Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook and James Harden. I don’t feel enough credit is given to Scott Brooks because his coaching style is exactly what’s keeping these young and talented players at the top of their games. Brooks has now led his Thunder to back-to-back Western Conference Championship series and he looks as if he has started a mini-dynasty that this franchise hasn’t seen since it’s days as the Seattle Supersonics with Gary “The Glove” Payton and Shawn “Rainman” Kemp.
You would think with a 20 point victory and a masterful defensive showing, that either Durant’s, Westbrook’s or Harden’s numbers would be astronomical, but the truth is that Scott Brooks found an “X” factor and it wasn’t any of them. Thabo Sefolosha made a defensive statement early with 3 steals in the opening few minutes and set the tone for the rest of the game. If you just stopped reading to look up who Thabo Sefolosha is, I understand because although he has been a starter all season for the Thunder, he is a relatively unknown player. For his career, Thabo has averaged 5 points per game while only pulling in 3 rebounds a game. He is the true definition of a role player and never really seems to embrace the spotlight. In last night’s game, the lights were shinning bright and Sefolosha put up career playoff highs in points (19) and steals (6) and was the real difference in the game.
“We wanted to bounce back after two losses like that. We had to play better and we did that tonight,” Sefolosha said. “We played with energy; we played with passion in front of our home crowd. They did a great job giving us a lift.”
Even though Oklahoma City looked great last night, they still find themselves down 2-1 in the series with Saturday’s game having the same importance as last night. “We are a prideful team. It’s no fun being down 0-2. It’s no fun,” Brooks said. “But we weren’t looking at the game thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, we have a chance to be down 0-3.’ We were looking at the game that we have a chance to be 1-2 after this game, and I give our guys a lot of credit. They believe in each other and they always play hard for each other.” Now that it is 2-1, I fully expect the Spurs to come out with a lot more energy in game 4. I’m extremely happy that OKC made this series interesting, but I still see the Spurs taking the next 2 games and wrapping this series up in 5.
You hear it all the time. Whenever a team goes on a historical hot-streak then everyone jumps on the bandwagon and claims they are the best ever. Surprisingly, the San Antonio Spurs have just set the record for most consecutive wins, for a streak that links the end of the regular season into the playoffs, and did so pretty much without any recognition. With their 20th win in a row last night, 120-111 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Spurs separated themselves from the 2001 Lakers who had also won 19 consecutive during their title run season before losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in game 1 of the Finals.
After a 17 point first half, Tony Parker let it be known that he was every bit deserving of that MVP award as Lebron James was. “Tony’s been great all year,” Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s been really focused the entire season.” Granted, OKC is not a premiere defensive team, but Parker literally tore them apart like a bulldog with a new toy. I will be the first to admit my previous dislike of the Spurs, mainly because of the Championship smack-down they laid on my Knicks in the last strike-shortened season, but the unbelievable teamwork and the top quality performances that the Spurs have been putting out on a nightly basis leave me in awe. From top to bottom, the Spurs have no holes. There was a point in last night’s game during the third quarter where all five players on the court for the SAS were bench players, while OKC had out their top 3 scorers, Westbrook, Durant and Harden and their best two defenders Ibaka and Perkins. Instead of relinquishing the lead that the starters had built, the Spurs seemed to build even more momentum.
As the fourth quarter was winding down, I was really hoping that OKC could go on a run and make it game, Unfortunately for them, every time that the Thunder were able to cut the once 22 point deficit down to 7 or 8, the Spurs would just drain a run-stopping shot like it was nothing. I have personally never seen a team this flawless since the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls 1995-96 team, which went on to win an NBA record 72 regular season game and one of Michael’s 6 championships. From the Spurs leading scorer, Tony Parker 21 points a game, all the way down to their 11th leading scorer, Matt Bonner’s 4 PPG, the Spurs can hurt you from anywhere and with anyone. At this point in the playoffs, I can’t feasibly bet the Spurs to lose even one game with the way they are playing. If the Spurs do sweep through the Thunder just like I expect them to, the Celtics or more likely the Heat should be prepared to manhandled. I am now jumping on the bandwagon!