Thunder Rally To Down Spurs, Take Western Conference Title
OKLAHOMA CITY - Kevin Durant said earlier this week the Thunder didn't know they had to wait their turn to take a trip to the NBA Finals.
Wednesday night, the Thunder jumped to the front of the line, and punched their ticket to their first NBA Finals, overcoming an 18-point first half deficit to defeat San Antonio, 107-99 to take the Western Conference title.
Durant, the three-time NBA scoring champion and face of the franchise, played the entire game, never coming out for a break. Despite playing a full 48 minutes, Durant put the Thunder on his back, scoring 34 points, and grabbing 14 rebounds in the victory.
Russell Westbrook added 25 points, eight rebounds, and five assists, and James Harden chipped in 16 off the bench for the Thunder, who closed out the Spurs with four consecutive wins, after dropping the first two games on the road in San Antonio.
Tony Parker scored 29 points and had 12 assists to lead the Spurs, but only had eight points after halftime. Tim Duncan added 25 points and 14 rebounds.
Stephen Jackson scored a surprising 23 points on a red-hot 6-7 from three-point range. Jackson's only miss from long distance came in the final seconds, when the Spurs were in desperation mode.
Things looked bleak for the Thunder early, as the Spurs roared out of the gates, shooting 54.5 percent in the first half, including a scorching 9-15 from 3-point range.
Starting at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter, the Spurs went on a 19-4 run over the next five minutes that blew the game open at 34-16 in San Antonio's favor.
Jackson came off the bench to score 12 points in the first half, on a perfect 4-4 from three point range.
Parker was extremely effective in the first half, racking up a double-double in just 20 minutes of play in the first half. Parker had 21 points and 10 assists in the first half to pace the Spurs scorching attack.
The Thunder had no answer for the Spurs torrid shooing in the first half. OKC didn't show the same defensive intensity that had led to three straight wins.
On offense OKC wasn't moving the ball with much urgency, often settling for outside jump shots instead of attacking the basket, or making the extra pass.
However, the Thunder came back out of the locker room with a renewed energy and whittled the lead to six with an 11-2 run over the first 4:13 of the second half. When Durant hit a three with 1:38 to go in the third, the Thunder had their first lead since the 9:49 mark of the first half.
The Spurs were far from the team that racked up 34 points in the first quarter, turning the ball over more, and shooting at a much lower percentage.
The Thunder played with intensity on the defensive end, something that was sorely lacking in the first half, and when the third quarter ended, OKC had cut the deficit to just one, with the Spurs leading, 81-80.
OKC grabbed a 90-84 lead after a quick 7-0 run midway the fourth quarter. The Spurs battled back, cutting the lead to two on multiple occasions, but a pair of threes, one from Derek Fisher, and one from James Harden kept the Spurs at bay.
Every time the Spurs tried to come back, the Thunder had an answer. Kendrick Perkins slammed the ball through the basket for a 105-99 lead with 24.9 seconds left, and the final exclamation point on the series.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena nearly blew the roof off the building, as they celebrated the Thunder's first trip to the NBA Finals. The game was a summary in and of itself of just how far the Thunder has come, from young upstarts, to poised and mature conference champions.
However, the Thunder isn't going to settle for a conference title. They're ready to win a world championship.
The Thunder will play game one of the NBA finals on Tuesday, June 12 at 8 p.m. CST against the winner of the Eastern Conference finals--either the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat.