SAN ANTONIO — One. ONE. One.
The Thunder are one win away from the NBA Finals. Just typing that totally freaked me out. I’m thinking about backspacing and starting over because it’s scaring me.
They did what they had to do. They had to win one game in San Antonio. They had to get a seemingly impossible job done. They had to do it.
And they did it.
I’m out of things to say about this team. Which sucks, because there’s a decently remotely possibly potentially good chance that I’m going to be needing to come up with a lot more stuff to say about this team over the next three weeks.
To say Game 5 was a wave of emotions is like saying Mt. Everest is a tall hill. Understatement. The ups and downs experienced in Game 5 zapped five years off all our lives. I’m not joking either. We’re all going to die earlier deaths because of this game. The Spurs’ hot start. The Thunder’s charge. The Thunder missing an opportunity to put some distance between them and the Spurs at halftime. Manu Ginobili’s explosion. OKC’s comeback. Another nine-point lead to start the fourth. Another blown lead. Another run to push it to 13. Another blown lead. A huge jumper by Russell Westbrook. Another push by the Spurs. A dagger by James Harden. Another push by the Spurs. A blown foul call that gave the Spurs a shot at tying down three. A Ginobili 3 that just rimmed out.
After all of it, the Thunder are one game away.
It almost had to be this way. There’s been a whole lot of talk about this team being ready or needing to go through the process of getting over the hump. Last season against Dallas, the Thunder struggled late in games, blowing a 15-point lead with about the same amount of time that was on the clock tonight. They blew the Game 1 lead against the Spurs. If there’s a process, the Thunder are going through it. Just on the fly. Accelerated development.
“We never thought we were supposed to wait our turn,” said Durant. “We always wanted to go and take everything.”
And they had to take Game 5. Deep down, it was true because otherwise it was back to being against a wall, back to fighting to stay alive and back to San Antonio with a must-win scenario. Obviously that’s still in play though. The series didn’t end tonight even though that feeling is in the air. The Thunder have a great advantage taking a 3-2 lead home, but there are no guarantees.
” We don’t want to get too high on this win,” Durant said. “We know that we still have a tough road ahead. But we came here, we wanted to get a win on their home floor. That’s what it took for us to advance or get to where we wanted to get.”
Said Westbrook: “It’s just one game. It’s Game 5, now got to get ready for Game 6. Just one step closer.”
One step, but the final one is big. Closeout games aren’t easy, especially when you’re trying to finish the Spurs, a team that’s really good. A team that doesn’t lose three games in a row very much. A team that loses four games straight about as much as Lazar Hayward plays.
It seems like it’s a little dangerous to think about having to win Game 6. But the opportunity is there. It’s there for the taking and the path has been cleared out for the Thunder. Are they ready? Is it their time, even though it’s so soon? If it’s not, we’ll sure know because this is about as good a chance as you’re going to get.
Game 5 was a summation of the Thunder’s journey wrapped into 48 minutes. Explosive exciting athleticism. Breathtaking basketball. Infuriating carelessness. Defensive lapses. Brilliant playmaking. Incredible resiliency. Frustrating mental mistakes. Big plays, big shots. Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook. James Harden. Building leads, losing them, coming back, hanging on. If the Thunder are finally set to take that next step, at least they’re doing it right.
- Scott Brooks: “We had a couple bad stretches but we didn’t break.” Sums it up well.
- The final six minutes were fairly insane. After closing the Spurs with 16 straight points in Game 4, KD didn’t see much of the ball late. Westbrook found himself forced to initiate as he and Harden battled against the Spurs’ hyper-physical on-ball defense. The Thunder didn’t play well to close. The didn’t execute. But they survived it.
- Three turnovers in four possessions to start the second half for OKC. Which resulted in an 18-4 Spurs run. Which seemed to sink the Thunder. Except it didn’t.
- Great Scott Brooks quote about KD: “He works like he has no talent.”
- That Westbrook oop. Holy mother of Westbrook.
- KD said he dedicated this game to his uncle who is sick in the hospital right now. “Personally for me, my uncle was in the hospital and I wanted to win this game for him. He was watching … He’s been watching me ever since I was a kid. It was weighing heavy on me, my dad told me this morning. I wanted to play my hardest and leave it all out on the floor. That’s what he wanted for me. Uncle Tyrone, that’s his name.”
- The officiating is a storyline of this game, unfortunately. It was disastrous. Both ways, the crew was just terrible. They called flops, called touch fouls, allowed way too much contact, were baited into calls and didn’t have control of the game. A total of 50 fouls were called. That’s too many.
- KD scored 22 of his 27 in the second half. He also had five assists.
- The Spurs flopped all over the floor tonight. The Thunder have their Flopper-in-Chief in Derek Fisher, yes. But Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were next level in this one. I honestly think their flopping was key in keeping the Spurs in the game. They got calls, so more power to him. It’s the league’s fault for allowing that garbage.
- The first player Scott Brooks mentioned postgame was Daequan Cook. And rightfully so. He stepped in and scored eight points in four minutes, hitting two big 3s in the second quarter.
- Said Cook: “Always as a player, when your teammates pass you the ball, it just lets you know that they have confidence in you. I always have confidence in myself. It’s important that every shot I shoot that I have confidence in myself to knock it down. That’s what happened. The team always has confidence and not just in me but any player we put out there and it’s just been going that way the whole series.”
- Westbrook had some struggles but he also scored 23 points, had 12 assists, four rebounds and four steals. He was pressured into six turnovers, a few of them undeserved as Parker got away with a lot, but the way he responded with that jumper was massive. Classic Russ right there.
- During this series, the Spurs have had Quick Change and Red Panda. OKC had guys riding bicyles and guys doing backflips.
- Gregg Popovich wasn’t shy about shaking things up. He started Ginobili and used DeJuan Blair as his first sub. Ginobili was brilliant as he was the best player on the floor tonight, but the changes didn’t yield any obvious positive results.
- Only Perk would get a technical foul when a bad call goes in his favor.
- Serge Ibaka picked up his second foul on two fairly weak calls just 45 seconds into the game. Foul trouble limited him as he only played 20 minutes. But he checked in late in the fourth, hit a big jumper and blocked a Ginobili drive. Had a key impact despite the limited minutes.
- I wanted to wait a few games to really make the statement, but I’m ready and I say this as objectively as possible: The Thunder’s homecourt seriously blows away the Spurs. And that’s not saying the Spurs is bad. Terrific fans, loud, involved. But OKC’s is next level. I haven’t been to too many road games over the past few years to compare, but after a few games in San Antonio versus OKC, it’s pretty clear the Thunder have a serious homecourt edge.
- Scott Brooks pushed mostly all the right buttons. He might’ve stuck too long with Fisher again as Thabo sat on the bench with OKC up 13. But it’s hard to argue with his line of thinking. He made a wise choice going big with Perk and Ibaka down the stretch as he brought in the bigs to seal the paint and forcing the Spurs to shoot their way back into it.
Next up: Game 6 in OKC Wednesday.