SAN ANTONIO – Kevin Durant was finding ways to score and Russell Westbrook was throwing himself all over the court with unbridled energy and Thabo Sefolosha and his defensive-minded big men were keeping the Spurs at bay.
Through three quarters, the Thunder looked all grown up. Looked capable of knocking off the Spurs, who hadn't lost in 46 days. Looked capable of making the NBA Finals.
Then suddenly, the Thunder looked scared. Dazed. Confused. Young. Awfully young.
Most playoff games are won or lost in the fourth quarter, and Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals most certainly was Sunday night. Won by the team that's been down this road in many a May. Lost by the team that's still a big-stage novice, despite its rapid ascension.
San Antonio beat the Thunder 101-98 at the AT&T Center, going from a nine-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to a 10-point lead with 1:57 left. Only a 3-point barrage in the final seconds made it close for OKC.
And now the Thunder has an off day to ponder its mission. Grow up, and grow up fast, if it wants to challenge the Spurs.
The Thunder lost its way on offense and defense. Grew stagnant with the ball. Grew sloppy in defending the Spurs.
The Thunder went seven straight possessions without scoring, and don't let anyone in blue tell you the Boomers were just missing shots. Wasn't so.
James Harden, then Derek Fisher, and finally Kendrick Perkins all testified. The Thunder stopped moving the ball.
During their fourth-quarter drought, the Thunder got no good shots. The Thunder stayed in the game by resorting to attacks, and the referees complied, giving OKC repeated trips to the foul line.
But Stephen Jackson's 3-pointer with 3:02 left gave the Spurs a 91-84 lead and effectively ended this one.