They were not supposed to be ready. Not yet. The Oklahoma City Thunder – young and talented but very young — were supposed to be a year or two away. Well, that year turned out to be this year, for, led by the almost indescribable Kevin Durant, the Thunder struck its stride at just the right time and OKC finds itself in the NBA Finals.
It took a Herculean effort by Durant and his comrades, but the Thunder battled back from an 18-point deficit to simply overwhelm the San Antonio Spurs, 107-99 to take the Western Conference finals 4-2. This conquest was not much of a surprise. But how Oklahoma City managed to pull out four games in a row to overtake the Spurs, who had won 20 games in a row, was a revelation to most everyone.
”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,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ”It was all about that, about body language, about being a family. I thought our guys did that the first possession of that second half and they did not look back.”
Kevin Duran had 34 points and 14 rebounds while playing all of regulation for the first time all season.
Russell Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who trailed Game 6 of the Western Conference finals by 18 in the first half and erased a 15-point halftime deficit before pulling ahead to stay in the fourth.
”It’s an amazing moment for him to play like this in this moment, in this setting, and I wasn’t going to take him out,” Brooks said. ”I was not going to take (Durant) out. I don’t care how many times he looked at me fatigued. He has enough, and I think all of our guys have enough to play. You just have to fight through it.”
They did. The Thunder was remarkably poised for a young team. Down by 18 in a close-out game, they did not panic. Instead they relied on their talent and togetherness and buckled down to slow down the Spurs. Tony Parker had 29 points and 12 assists, but only eight of his points came after the break, when San Antonio led by 15.
OKC methodically worked its way back into the game in the second half behind Durant, Westbrook and James Harden — the Thunder’s lethal trio. Before long they overtook the Spurs and did what they had done in the three previous games; they made plays at the end to win instead of the veteran Spurs, who got 25 points and 154 rebounds from Tim Duncan and 23 points from reserve guard Stephen Jackson.
”I never want to take those moments for granted,” Durant said. ”I know it’s just one step closer to our dreams, but it felt good.”