Thursday, June 7, 2012

Spurs Pass the Torch to OKC

KD has the Thunder pointing towards the NBA Finals.
The Spurs came out hitting to the tune of an 18 point first half lead. It seemed like textbook San Antonio. They weren't going home. They wouldn't be denied. They were the Spurs. They had this.

And then something different happened.

The Thunder started making a comeback. They started flowing on offense. They started hitting shots and connecting on dunks and doing everything right, which is what the Spurs did in the first half. So it came down to the end of the game. The team with the most poise, leadership, and experience would take this one. And that was the Spurs, right? It was always the Spurs. Even when they were down, San Antonio had a shot. But one play embodied a changing of the guard.

Westbrook will eat you if that's what it takes to win.
The Spurs fell asleep when they needed to foul, Kevin Durant zipped a bounce pass to Kendrick Perkins for a dunk, and it was all over. San Antonio was exhausted, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Their time is over. It's the Thunder's time now.

There are a lot of similarities between the two teams. Both have an explosive point guard in Tony Parker and Russell Westrbook. Both have the sixth man in Manu Ginobili and James Harden who will come of the bench and give you 200% effort. You can compare Serge Ibaka and Perkins to some of the bigs that the Spurs' dynasty has had (Francisco Elson, Fabricio Oberto, DeJaun Blair, Tiago Splitter, etc.). While not as dominant defensively, Thabo Sefolosha fills the role of stopper that Bruce Bowen once did. And of course, Durant and Tim Duncan are the cornerstones, the players that makes the big shots for the team. The players that are so very consistent. The players that dominate in crunch time. The kind of players that win.

The fact of the matter is that this team has grown up. Durant had a phenomenal game: 34 points on 17 shots, 12 of 15 free throws, 4 of 8 from behind the arc, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks. He's turned into the man, and has some thinking about whether or not LeBron James is truly the best player in the league.

Westbrook has also evolved from great player into superstar. His athleticsim is second to none. For everyone who griped about him taking more shots than Durant, he has showed that sometimes it works. The Thunder got these two because they drafted well, but they developed them because they surrounded them with the perfect role players.

Harden completed the evolution. His clutch shooting has been something of magic. He gives Oklahoma City another closer who can take over the game late. He did it against Dallas and he did it against the Spurs. Harden has shown how important a good sixth man is to winning.

Everybody touch it!
This team has been the anti-Heat. They play hard. They play unselfish. They know who they are. And they play as if winning is the only option. They were built from the ground up. They went through the growing pains and the losing experiences. And they are now at the top of the NBA.

The Thunder have played with absolute dominance this postseason. They took the two first games in the Western Conference Finals to figure out how to beat the Spurs. They spent the next four games dissecting them and beating them in every way they knew possible.

Now you're looking at the new Spurs. A team that has all the pieces. A team that has the winning mentality. A team that has the ability to become a dynasty.

Will they win four championships like San Antonio? That remains to be seen. But do they look like the new kings of the NBA? Sorry Miami, but they do. And they'll have a chance to prove it to the world in the Finals.

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