Spurs-Thunder: Youthful OKC squad stands tall
Berry Tramel: The Thunder is one win away from reaching the NBA Finals, long before most thought it would be ready.
The Thunder returned from San Antonio a week ago licking its wounds and being told its ascension would have to wait.
The Thunder returned from San Antonio on Tuesday flexing its muscles and being told to watch out for waving palm branches.
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Reactionary or revolutionary? Depends on the Western Conference Finals' Game 6 Wednesday night, when the Thunder can eliminate the Spurs and reach the NBA Finals.
Beat the Spurs to win the West, and the Thunder will have short-circuited protocol. Paid its dues quickly, a homeowner paying extra principal on its mortgage.
A team with stars aged 23 (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) and 22 (James Harden, Serge Ibaka) isn't supposed to reach the Finals, much less win it. A team this young is supposed to wait its turn.
“Well, we never just thought that we were supposed to wait our turn,” Durant said. “We always wanted to go and take everything.”
That's how the Thunder played in Game 5 Monday night. Despite a horrific start, despite the best shots from old pros Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, despite a fourth-quarter cold spell that made the final minute hairy, the baby Boomers stood tall.
“We've never looked at our age,” said Scotty Brooks. “I don't give them an excuse and say, ‘Oh, it's OK. You're only 20. It's OK, three years from now you'll only be 23.' We don't do that.”
But truth is this was not set up to be the Thunder's year. The Spurs passed OKC for the No. 1 seed in the West, then played for two months like they were an epic team.
But the Thunder's two home victories last week restored the competitiveness of the series, then the Thunder's 108-103 Game 5 victory announced a changing of the guard in the NBA. Provided the Thunder holds serve at home.
“We don't want to get too high for this win,” Durant said in San Antonio. “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 to get to where we wanted to get to.”