It’s been 10 days since the Thunder’s season ended on their home floor in a frustrating sixth game to the Spurs. The shock of it suddenly ending overshadowed a lot of what happened in that game, most specifically the Spurs somehow beating the Thunder without Tony Parker in a place they’d lost nine consecutive games.
Still, even with the disappointing finish, it was quite the postseason for the Thunder, at least in terms of memories and moments. That’s the thing: You can still have incredible plays and moments without wining a title. Because the Thunder’s postseason was full of them. I recapped all that here with this fancy timeline thing, but let’s put a bow on the Thunder’s playoffs with the 10 best moments from it. And as always, these moments are FACT and you’re not allowed to argue one that you think should be in there.
10. Third quarter madness
It wasn’t not quite as electric as an 8-0 run against that other Los Angeles team, but the Thunder’s wild burst against the Clippers in Game 2 was this team at it’s wildest and most entertaining level.
9. Stone Cold Steve Adams
It probably wasn’t intended to be a punch, but Zach Randolph closed his fist and caught Steven Adams in the jaw. No bother to the Kiwi, though. Because he had other things on his mind, like what the hell he was supposed to do on the offensive end. Adams’ chicanery is becoming well documented and he’s gaining an unfortunate reputation because of it, but the big rookie is just large, clumsy and plays ridiculously hard. Watch the scuffle — Adams doesn’t do anything other than bump into Randolph. That play got Randolph suspended and made Game 7 quite a bit easier on the Thunder. (Sidebar vent: Randolph’s suspension didn’t “decide” the series. You know what decided the series? The Grizzlies getting blown out by 20 on their home floor with a chance to finish it off in Game 6. If you have regrets, Memphis, it should be that.)
8. Perk, the hero
The moment that Kendrick Perkins was loved.
7. Ride the Russellcoaster
The Thunder were down as many as 16 in the second half, and headed for a 2-1 deficit to the Grizzlies in embarrassing fashion. The comeback started on the defensive end as OKC methodically built a comeback to eventually tie the game with 57 seconds left on a Westbrook corner 3. Westbrook then turned the ball over in horrific fashion and OKC was down four with 30 seconds left. Legs kicking, arms flailing, 3-pointer and the foul for Westbrook, and a tie game.
The Thunder’s season is effectively over without Reggie Jackson’s Game 4 in Memphis. Westbrook and Durant combined for 30 points on 11-of-45 shooting, but Jackson saved them with a career-high 32, including a flurry of critical buckets and free throws in overtime. Had the Thunder won a title this season, Jackson’s Game 4 in Memphis would’ve been the touchstone moment for me.
5. Mr. Undeniable
The headline was nonsense, as was the buzz surrounding it. But what the Thunder faced wasn’t local criticism of Saint Durant. It was opening round elimination in six games to the Grizzlies, setting up what would’ve been some kind of awkward MVP ceremony. Durant responded in the way he had to, putting up 36 to set up a Game 7, in one of those landmark games of his career. The Thunder didn’t win it all, but the way Durant handled himself and answered the call when in a corner, could be big at a later date.
Down 14 with four minutes left? Or how about seven with 47 seconds left? The lesson, as always: The Thunder could be down 60, but if they’re playing at The Peake, you better stick around just in case. So many things happened in those final four minutes that you could honestly make a top 10 just from that.
3. Four-point heaven
I know this sounds weird, but from where I was sitting in the arena — in the opposite corner — when Durant let this thing fly, it looked good all the way. The way the ball left his hand, the silence of the arena as it traveled, the almost hesitation from the crowd when it dropped — it was a perfect playoff moment. Too bad the Thunder went on to lose, though. Otherwise, it’s one of the best moments ever.
2. Elevate, detonate
This might be Russell Westbrook’s best dunk ever. Considering the moment, the stage, the defender, the team, the flair — it’s something else.
1. Serge back
Ibaka’s return from a season-ending injury not only sparked a Game 3 win over the Spurs, but nearly saved the season. The whole build-up is what made this so incredible. A second straight postseason derailed by injury for the Thunder, then the chatter Ibaka might be able to return in the Finals, then the talk maybe he could make it back for a Game 7, then he’s listed as day to day, then he’s playing. He went from not practicing or running on Saturday to scoring 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting plus four blocks on Sunday. After he hit that first jumper to score OKC’s opening points, you knew that was going to be a special night.