Dream Deferred: Thunder's Title Hopes End In Game 6 Loss

Saturday, May 31st 2014, 11:32 pm
By: News 9

And just like that...it's over.  

The Thunder's dreams and realistic expectations of claiming the 2014 NBA title are dead.  The San Antonio Spurs finally broke serve and took down the Thunder 112-107 in overtime, ending Oklahoma City's season.

The Spurs' win snapped a nine-game losing streak at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

For the first time all series, this one was tight throughout.  The Thunder led by three after the first quarter and closed the half on a 20-9 run to take a 49-42 lead into the break. The defensive intensity was heightened on both sides, but there was no question that Oklahoma City was catching some breaks. The sharp-shooting Spurs hoisted 18 3-pointers in the first half but only made four.

The game's biggest on-paper development occurred at halftime when Spurs' star Tony Parker left the game with an ankle injury and did not return.  But this would only serve as another reminder that the game isn't played on paper.

San Antonio started the second half with Cory Joesph in place of Parker and came out with a sense of urgency.

The Spurs started hitting some of those open 3s they missed in the first half. Even without Parker, San Antonio put on a ball-movement clinic, spreading the floor and knocking down one jumper after another.

"Tony Parker is not their whole team," Kevin Durant said.  "They've got a good system. They've got guys that they can plug in, and they came in and made plays."

Meanwhile, the Thunder's role players were nowhere to be found. Derek Fisher's jumper with a minute left in the third quarter was the first two points by any member of the Thunder not named Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka or Jackson.

The Spurs outscored OKC 37-20 in the third, capped off by a Danny Green 4-point play.

"We didn't come out (ready)," Brooks said of his team's third-quarter effort.  "We started settling for too many jump shots and then we turned the ball over. And then defensively they had us scrambling around and they made some big plays at the end.  They hit a big 3 and got fouled in the last seconds."

San Antonio took a 79-69 lead into the fourth, but Oklahoma City wasn't going quietly into the night.

Behind a frantic home crowd, the Thunder rallied and rallied until they finally tied it at 97-97 with 58 seconds to play. The final minute was pure chaos.

Durant drive in and put OKC up two with 36 seconds to play, but the Spurs answered back. Aided by what appeared to be an illegal screen from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili drained a 3-ball from the top of the key to put the Spurs up 100-99 with 27 seconds to play.

The Thunder's ensuing possession was disasterous. Durant slipped on a wet spot and turned the ball over. Ginobili walked back to the free throw line, but made only one.

Westbrook answered with a pair of clutch free throws and the Thunder once again tied it with nine seconds to play. The Spurs' final chance to win in regulation ended on a missed Ginobili jumper — overtime it was.

The extra session was tight for the first few minutes, but the Thunder picked a poor time to go cold. OKC didn't score in the game's final 2:21 and the rest is history.  

Durant capped off his MVP season with 31 points and 14 rebounds. Westbrook finished with 34 points, eight assists and six steals.  The Thunder's bench only totaled five points, all by Fisher in what could be his final NBA game.  

"Our goal is to win the big thing and go out on top, unfortunately that didn't happen for us this year," Durant said.  "But we improved; something we can always learn from."

Despite the sad feelings, Durant maintained a glass-half-full approach to his postgame press conference.

"Just grateful to play with such great teammates in such a great building and for a great city like this," Durant explained. "We've all got to keep our heads up and keep improving."

Reggie Jackson ended his breakout season with 21 points as he started at the shooting guart spot once again. Serge Ibaka finished with 16 points, four rebounds and four blocks.  

In a season in which the Thunder undoubtedly expected to reach the NBA Finals, a loss here feels even harder. But despite the disappointment, Thunder coach Scott Brooks praised his team and wasn't hesistant to describe this season as a success.  

"Absolutely. It's hard to win a championship," Brooks said. "There's only one team that stands every year. We've worked every day since July to be in this position, to climb to the top, and we came six games short. We have to keep our heads up and move on."

As for the Spurs, it's redemption time.  San Antonio will look to take revenge on the Miami Heat after losing a heartbreaking seven-game NBA Finals a season ago. But before looking ahead to the Finals, Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich took time to praise the Thunder. 

"They do a fantastic job, that's why I have to be honest, this victory is really sweet because we know we played one hell of a team," Popovich said. "And we take great satisfaction in that because they are so special. They'll certainly be back doing great things without any doubt."

There will be plenty of Thunder to talk about in the coming weeks.  Wrapping up the end of the season, prepping for the NBA Draft, then on to Summer League and so on and so forth.  So keep visiting news9.com/sports for all of your Thunder updates, and most of all, thank you for reading this season. You are much appreciated.