The Oklahoma City Thunder are headed to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. All proper condolences to the Seattle SuperSonics (1967-2008) but this team in Oklahoma City owned by Clay Bennett and his Professional Basketball Club LLC have established themselves as a new entity and with last night’s 107-99 close out of the San Antonio Spurs they may be just beginning a new era of dominance in the Western Conference.
Led by Kevin Durant’s 34 point, 14 rebound, 5 assist performance last night the Thunder were able to erase an 18 point deficit and win their fourth straight game to eliminate the Spurs in 6 games. Durant, who played every minute of regulation for the first time all season was also helped by Russell Westbrook’s 25 points and 8 rebounds and James Harden’s 16 points.
After falling behind 63-48 at halftime and being challenged by their coach Scotty Brooks who said he had “nothing to do” with the eight first-half turnovers the team committed, the Thunder outscored the Spurs 59-36 in the second half to win the game and the series. As I mentioned yesterday, one of the major keys for the Thunder have been limiting Spurs point-guard Tony Parker’s play, and that is exactly what the Thunder did last night in the second half. After Parker went off for 21 points and 10 assists in the first half, in the second half the Thunder contained him and held him to just 8 points and 2 assists in the final 24 minutes. Keeping up with the speedy and athletic Russell Westbrook will break down a man, especially when that man is 30 years old with a ton of basketball mileage on him. The drastic decline in Parker’s play was the major difference in the Thunder being able to erase the 15 point halftime deficit before they pulled ahead for good in the fourth quarter.
Tony Parker had 21 Pts and 10 Ast in the 1st half. He's the only player since 1996 with 20 Pts and 10 Ast in a playoff half.—
ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 07, 2012
On the play of his team in the second half Coach Brooks said, “It just had everything to do with who we are as men, who we are as a team, the type of spirit that we want to show every time down the court. It was all about that, about body language, about being a family. I thought our guys did that the first possession of the second half and they did not look back”. Well, Coach Brooks, the play of the Thunder has now earned the club a trip to the NBA Finals to play either the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat beginning next Tuesday night in Oklahoma City. Considering that just three short years ago the Thunder started off the year 3-29 and on pace for the worst record in NBA (they finished the year 23-59), this ball-club being 4 wins away from their first NBA title (second if you want to count the Sonics 1979 Finals win over the Bullets, but like I said before I consider the Thunder to be their own franchise) is very, very impressive.
With all the talk about Kobe (5 championships) and LeBron (obviously ZERO) chasing Michael Jordan and his six championship rings, the man who has a chance to win his sixth in this NBA Finals is the one and only Derek Fisher. Fish hit some clutch shots in last night’s game and made people remember one of his former teammates in “Big Shot” Robert Horry, high praise for the Thunders backup point guard. My man Kendrick Perkins is back in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010 when his knee injury was the difference in the Celtics not being able to capture their second title of the new “Big Three” era in falling to the Lakers, so it will be interesting to see how he does whether he’s competing against Kevin Garnett or Chris Bosh down in the paint (hopefully KG). Will Kevin Durant earn his first ring at 23 years old, we will find out later this month, but the Thunder have taken the first step in doing so. Last night belonged to Oklahoma City and their awesome fans so congratulations to the KD-Trey and his bunch.