The refrain has been sung by many a Thunder during these past few days.
“We’ve been here before.”
Remember the Alamo?
Nah, remember the 2012 Western Conference Finals.
As the Thunder heads into Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, it is clearly mindful of the fact that it faced the exact same situation two years ago. Down 0-2. Playing the Spurs. The Thunder rallied, of course, winning four straight and going to the NBA Finals.
One problem — the Spurs remember that series, too.
While the Thunder is looking at 2012 as a source of hope, the Spurs see it as motivation. Fire. Fuel. Even with the news that the Thunder may have Serge Ibaka’s services again soon, the Spurs are dead set on not letting the Thunder come back this time.
“We were in that position in 2012,” Spurs point guard Tony Parker said. “We were up 2-0, and so ... ”
He never finished that sentence, but the implication was clear.
“We know that they’re very capable of a comeback,” he said. “We’re just very focused, and nobody is satisfied.”
Parker said those words soon after the Spurs’ 35-point win in Game 2. Theirs was a performance so complete in its domination that it amounted to one of the Thunder’s worst defeats since arriving in Oklahoma City.
Starters were pulled in the third quarter.
And yet, the Spurs aren’t talking like a team up 2-0 in this series. There’s no happiness. There’s no contentedness.
If anything, they seem to be drudging up disgust from how they ended up playing two years ago.
“We know how dangerous they are, what they’re capable of,” Spurs sharpshooter Danny Green said of a Thunder team that posed very little threat in the first two games of the series, “so Game 3 has got to be even more intense and more focused than these past two games.”
Spurs super sub Manu Ginobili said, “We cannot take anything for granted. We had a great start and ended up losing the series (two years ago).”
Lots can change in two years’ time, and yet, both of these teams are largely the same now as they were then. The Thunder still has seven of its top eight players from that series — James Harden is the only one who’s departed — and while the Spurs have parted ways with Stephen Jackson and Gary Neal, eight of their top nine players were around two years ago.
The guys in black and silver don’t have to talk about what happened, though Ginobili said they did discuss it in the locker room after Game 2. Everyone knows the hurt that they felt. They were there, experiencing the disappointment, living the heartbreak.
Remember, too, that Spurs team was on an utterly amazing run. Those first two wins of the Western Conference Finals pushed San Antonio’s winning streak to 20 games. It had won the final 10 games of the regular season, then swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
It was only the fourth team in NBA history to win 20 games in a row.
And yet, the streak that stands out to the Spurs from that season was the four-game losing skid that ended their year.
“We’ve been here before in the past against these guys,” Green said.
That might be a Thunder refrain these days, but it’s every bit as much a Spurs’ rallying cry as this series moves to Oklahoma City.
The fellas from the Alamo City remember.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.