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Thunder-Spurs: The truth may hurt, but the better team won

COMMENTARY — The Western Conference Finals proved the Thunder is a good team that can be great, but the Spurs are better and showed it in their 112-107 overtime victory in Game 6.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 1, 2014

The better team won.

That’s a hard truth to swallow, especially for a Thunder team that could say otherwise, at least in the Western Conference, for almost three years. But now we know, that in 2013-14, the Spurs were superior.

Not a lot better, at least not Saturday night, when the Spurs beat the Thunder 112-107 in overtime to win the Western Conference Finals. But better.

The Spurs exposed holes in the Thunder. When the Thunder solved one major problem, another popped up. The Thunder played great defense on the Spurs in Game 6 but didn’t rebound worth beans. The Thunder found scoring help for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook but didn’t take care of the ball.

And even the injury curse reversed. Serge Ibaka played 48 1/2 minutes; San Antonio point guard Tony Parker didn’t play after halftime. But the Spurs persevered, even excelled, without their leader.

The Thunder was good. Maybe even great. But the Spurs were better.

“This victory is really sweet, because we know we played one hell of a team, and we take great satisfaction in that, because they are so special,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “They’ll certainly be back doing great things, without a doubt.”

Maybe so. But the Spurs did more great things Saturday night. When their offense stagnated, San Antonio responded by fiercely going after their own missed shots. The Spurs ended up with 22 points off offensive rebounds. When the Thunder shut down Manu Ginobili (four of 14 shooting), the Spurs found bounty in backup Boris Diaw (26 points). When Popovich felt compelled to again put his best defender, Kawhi Leonard, on Westbrook, the move paid off even more when Danny Green found success bothering Durant, who had seven turnovers.

That’s the mark of a resilient team. Find a way to win.

Not that the Thunder wasn’t resilient itself. The Boomers were all but beat, down 12 early in the fourth quarter, down nine with six minutes left in regulation and down six with 2:15 left. And the Thunder fought back to force overtime and led as late as the final 90 seconds of its season.

“They have so much talent, so much athleticism, so much future, too,” said Ginobili. “They were very close. They are a tough team. I’m so proud of our team to have beaten them here. It’s very hard to do in a playoff game with the talent they have and the crowd. I think they are fantastic.”

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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