Don't Stop Believing: Thunder Proves Season Far From Over

Sunday, April 28th 2013, 2:58 am
By: News 9

Thunder GM Sam Presti held a conference call Saturday afternoon to announce that Russell Westbrook will miss the remainder of the postseason with a torn meniscus. Following that news, Thunder fans everywhere were forced to accept the reality that an NBA championship is likely out of the question for this season.

But don't tell that to Kevin Durant, who dropped 41 points and 14 rebounds Saturday night to lead OKC to another nail-biting victory over now-arch-rival Houston.

And don't tell that to Serge Ibaka, whose 17 points and 11 boards helped KD fend off a desperate Rockets squad down the stretch.

Or to Derek Fisher and Reggie Jackson, who each nailed a clutch pair of free throws to ice the game in the final 12 seconds.

In fact, don't tell that to anyone on the Oklahoma City Thunder – because they're not listening.

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Saturday's win puts the Thunder up 3-0, which means this series is as good as done. No NBA team has ever recovered from a 3-0 hole, and the string is certainly not going to be broken against a team led by Durant.

With that said, OKC has at least one more game to prepare for its first real hurdle: a round-two date with the Grizzlies or Clippers. That means at least 48 more minutes to figure out how to run an offense without the unique unguardability of Westbrook.

From an X's and O's standpoint, it will be a challenge. From what we saw Saturday night, fourth-quarter execution needs a lot of work. Too much standing around, too many instances of guys not willing to take the big shot and not enough help for Durant.

But from a mental perspective, Saturday couldn't have gone any better. Not only because the Thunder proved to themselves they can win a road playoff game without Russ, they proved they could do it with their backs against the wall.

The great Yogi Berra said it best: "90 percent of the game is half-mental." That couldn't be truer for OKC.

When things are going great, like they were in the first quarter Saturday, it's easy to believe. But when Francisco Garcia's 3-ball gave Houston a 99-97 with 45 seconds to play, it's a whole lot harder.

It was a perfect storm of frustration. Playing without Westbrook for the first time since they drafted him back in 2008, the Thunder clanked one shot after another as castaway James Harden led his team from a 26-point deficit to a two-point lead.

But Durant believed, and with 41 seconds left, answered with one of the wildest shots you'll ever see. Call it luck, call it skill, call it fate – but after his deep-ball hit the back rim, then the backboard, then the front rim, then the back rim again, then the backboard again – Durant called it three points.

His miraculous shot gave OKC a one-point lead it wouldn't relinquish. It also gave the Thunder belief that the season is far from over.