Remember when this series seemed all but lost, Thunder fans?
That was three days ago.
Seems like three years.
The idea that the Thunder could win these Western Conference Finals doesn't seem so out of the question now. Not with the momentum that the boys in blue have built. Not after a blowout Thursday night. Not after what happened Saturday night.
Thunder 109, Spurs 103.
“We are playing against a really talented team,” Spurs super sub Manu Ginobili said. “We earned ourselves the possibility of having home-court advantage, and hopefully, we'll use it.”
Hope seemed like the last thing the Spurs needed when these Western Conference Finals swung to Oklahoma City. After the first two games in San Antonio, the Spurs were clearly superior. Better scheme. Better execution. Better ball team.
But on a night when the Thunder tied the series at two games apiece, the Spurs' superiority is gone. While the home team won in so in many of the old, familiar ways — Kevin Durant hitting huge baskets, Thabo Sefolosha playing great defense, Russell Westbrook causing havoc — it was the unexpected contributors who have turned this series on its ear.
Prime among them: Kendrick Perkins.
No doubt Serge Ibaka should get all kinds of love for his 26-point performance. Rare is the night a guy hits all 11 shots he takes in a pressure-packed playoff game.
But we've seen Ibaka's offensive prowess from time to time. The shot blocker has got that jumper from the baseline or the wing that is almost automatic from 16 or 18 feet.
But Perk? The Big Nasty hitting 7 of 9 shots? Gran Torino scoring the Thunder's first five points when no one else could find the range? The Scowl finishing with 15 points?
He didn't score that many points in the first three games of this series combined.
It was only one point off his season high of 16 points, scored in that Sunday night beatdown of the Heat back in March.
“He scores points with his screens,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of how Perk usually contributes offensively.
There's no doubt Brooks is absolutely right about that. Perk is a master at setting a pick outside the paint and giving shooters like Durant or Westbrook the whisker of space that they need to get an open look.
But Perk did more than get hockey assists on baskets Saturday night.
He got baskets.
“He was rolling hard,” Brooks said. “We were finding they were jumping out on Kevin, putting two guys on the ball, and Kevin was doing a great job finding him.”
For the first two games of this series, it was the Spurs having those kind of unexpected offensive contributions. Game 1, it was Gary Neal. Game 2, it was Kawhi Leonard.
All the while, the Thunder was depending completely on Durant, Westbrook and James Harden. And they couldn't beat the Spurs by themselves.
These last two games, they didn't have to do that. Game 3, they got help from Sefolosha. Game 4, the assistance came from Ibaka and Perk.
Worked out pretty well for the Thunder, don't you think?
“We know this is only one step closer,” Durant said of tying the series. “We did what we were supposed to do by winning at home, so we've just got to go down there in the mindset that we're going to play hard every possession.
“We've just got to keep believing, man. We'll be fine.”
Sure seems like the Thunder could be better than fine. Is it impossible to think the boys in blue could win Monday night in San Antonio? Is it crazy to believe the Thunder Bandwagon could roll back into Oklahoma City on Wednesday night with a chance for the Thunder to close out this series?
Not at all.