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Thunder appears playoff ready

But the postseason remains a long way away — 124 days to be exact
by Jenni Carlson Published: December 17, 2012


photo - Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after hitting a 3-point shot during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in Oklahoma City Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after hitting a 3-point shot during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in Oklahoma City Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

One hundred and twenty-four days.

That's how long you have to wait until the NBA Playoffs, Thunder fans. And in case you were wondering, it's going to feel like a long wait.

That much was clear Monday night at The Peake. The Spurs came to town to face the Thunder, and it was close to a playoff atmosphere as we've seen so far this season. It made you long for postseason basketball.

Thunder 107, Spurs 93.

It was grand.

Can the playoffs start now?

The boys in blue played about as well as you'd imagine they could for the first three quarters of this game. They shot it well. They rebounded it well. They shared it well. They defended it well.

The Thunder built an 18-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter.

Eighteen points.

Against the Spurs.

That sort of thing just doesn't happen.

“When you play them, you have to have second and third efforts,” Thunder reserve Nick Collison said. “They're gonna run pick-and-roll one side, and you're going to have to close out. The guy's gonna drive and kick to somebody else, and you're going to have to continue to play for the whole 24 seconds.

“It's definitely an effort game when you play them.”

Thunder fans know that well after last season's epic series against the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Every game was a battle. Every possession was a grind.

But on this night, the Thunder made things look easier than in that come-from-behind, six-game playoff series victory.

The Thunder beat down the Spurs so thoroughly that Gregg Popovich benched his starters the entire fourth quarter. The Spurs coach left Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Co. on the bench as his subs whittled down that 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit.

At least Pop didn't send the starters back to San Antonio.

“We just know that the Spurs are a good team,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They're going to give you their best shot. They play every possession on both ends of the floor.”

But the Thunder more than matched the Spurs.

It started with Serge Ibaka. He hit his first seven shots of the game, including six in the first quarter. The Spurs had to be wondering if they were watching a repeat of Game 4 from the conference finals.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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