NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: It’s like 2012 all over again for Thunder — Just a week ago, San Antonio was on the easy path (it seemed) to a second straight Western Conference championship and trip to The NBA Finals. The Oklahoma City have had other ideas since then, though, as the emotional boost of Serge Ibaka‘s return from injury and the performances of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have knotted the series 2-2. Our Fran Blinebury was on hand last night in OKC and saw a lot of the 2012 Thunder-Spurs West finals series in that game (for those of you who forgot, OKC climbed from an 0-2 hole that year to reach its first Finals):
This is no longer a matter of simply asking Tony Parker to play better. It’s about finding a way for the Spurs to regain their poise and effectiveness against an OKC team that in the last two games has come at them like a rolling bundle of butcher knives.
There have been four games played now and four blowouts. But no matter what the series score sheet says, it doesn’t feel like the Western Conference finals are tied at 2-2.
You could say the Spurs have been put back on their heels, if it didn’t look like they were flat on their backs. It’s looking just like two years ago, when the Thunder spotted San Antonio a 2-0 lead and then roared back for a reverse sweep.
Remember Games 1 and 2 in San Antonio when the Thunder front line of Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha put up just nine combined points? It pushed Thunder coach Scott Brooks to make a lineup change to get Reggie Jackson on the floor with the starters and Jeremy Lamb into the rotation.
Here was Duncan (nine points) Tiago Splitter (3) and Danny Green (3) managing to squeeze out just a few more drops and the solution is hardly to sound the trumpet for more of Cory Joseph, Matt Bonner and the Desperation Cavalry.
With the young arms and legs of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Lamb and Jackson cutting off angles and jumping into passing lanes, the Thunder have smothered San Antonio’s offense.
With their driving, relentless aggressiveness, OKC has also overwhelmed the Spurs’ defense. Of Westbrook’s 40 points and Durant’s 31, a lion’s share came with them going to hoop and making the Spurs look helpless to do anything about it.
Since the 2012 conference finals, the Spurs have an NBA-best road record of 62-33 against 28 other teams. But they’re also 0-9 in OKC since then, too.
“I think we should not think like that,” Parker said. “Each game is different, each series, each year.”
So how come it feels like 2012 and we already know how the election and everything else turned out?