Remember when the Spurs won Game 1 by 32?
I sure do. It was a massacre unlike you really ever see. The Spurs outclassed the Thunder in every way possible and suddenly the scope of everything had changed. Was this the death of the Thunder as we knew them?
What happened from then to now isn’t just surprising, it’s incredible. The Thunder turned into a new team. One with a tangible identity, a backbone and a belief they’re good enough. They became a defensive monster, clutch-time executioners, and rode the backs of doubted and disparaged role players. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were outstanding, because that’s what they are, but they also took over and led the team. They didn’t let them crumble after Game 1. They lifted them.
This is an achievement. No, you shouldn’t be satisfied. The Thunder sure aren’t. But this is a massive achievement that should be celebrated. Durant said it’s not their championship. He’s right. Regardless of what happens next, though, this was a special performance by this team.
It’s not fair, how the road turns for them now. They beat the 67-win Spurs, and did it convincing fashion, revealing flaws and issues with the old dogs of the West. Now they get the 73-win Warriors, a cruel twist of fate, but at this point, why not? It’s never been easy for the Thunder, and this season has been proof. There have been so many ups and downs that if this is going to happen for them finally, it should be hard. It should take something special. It should be earned.
It’s on to the next series, but first, pat yourselves on the back for this one. If only for a moment.
- OK, the game: The Thunder’s run to end the first basically put it away. Yeah, I know, they only led 26-19, but it was clear the Spurs were in for something they couldn’t handle tonight. That second quarter onslaught was just coming at that point, and there was no slowing it down.
- Just 31 points for the Spurs at halftime. That first half defense was menacing.
- The Spurs scored 34 in the third as the Thunder clearly relaxed some. But OKC got 36 to keep the lead. That was very important because…
- The Spurs got it down to 11 in the fourth. The run was coming, and the Thunder clearly got tight. Durant admitted to that after the game: “We just had to relax. Coming into the huddle, they cut it to 17 and everybody was obviously upset that they cut the lead and I’m like, ‘These guys are going to keep fighting to the last buzzer sounds.’ So we can’t dig ourselves a deeper hole by beating ourselves up. We had to stay confident and we got this lead for a reason, by playing good basketball. So we could do that again.”
- Steven Adams on the Warriors: “We’re not going to be cocky or anything or try to come out too much. We know it’s going to be one hell of a battle. We just have to show up and make sure we don’t take anything for granted and stick to what we do.”
- The Spurs tried Boban. It didn’t work that well.
- There was a play in the third where OKC got mismatched in transition and Ibaka found Danny Green and closed out what would’ve been an open corner 3. That’s the kind of thing the Thunder didn’t do with any regularity during the regular season. They’re doing it now and it’s making all the difference.
- I know it sounds ridiculous, but Andre Iguodala won a Finals MVP doing what Andre Roberson did tonight. That’s how good Roberson was. Guarded the other team’s best player, and added some bonus offense. Roberson was spectacular in this series. He made Leonard work for everything, and basically reduced him to an iso player.
- Adams had a migraine pregame. Was throwing up and had to get an IV. He downplayed it postgame: “Don’t think I’m a hero or anything, mate. It’s just modern medicine.”
- Serge Ibaka deserves a lot of credit. He had a thankless job in a lot of ways, but in the final three games, he did outstanding work on Aldridge, really trying to force him baseline to help and contesting him like crazy.
- Fittingly, Enes Kanter was a -1. Mainly because he played a lot in Game 1.
- Shouts to young Bill Donovan. He coached a heck of a series. Pushed the right buttons and had Pop scrambling to the depths of his roster for answers. You can see where Donovan could be really good. With the time to process and adjust throughout a series, he really flexed some coaching chops.
Next up: Game 1 against the Warriors on Monday