In the last two springs, the Thunder has played four playoff series. And won two.
That's more playoff experience than Portland's had since 2003 (three series). That's as many playoff successes as George Karl's had in his six years in Denver. More than the Hornets have had since moving to New Orleans (nine years ago). More than the always-scrappy Rockets have had since 1997.
Losing to the Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals was a bummer for the Thunder, especially considering the blown leads late in the final two games this week.
But what a valuable ride for the Thunder.
“We hadn't been through many experiences in the playoffs,” James Harden said. “Now that we've been through some tribulations, we have some things we can bounce back on.”
No kidding. The Laker glamour show from a year ago. Now the gauntlet of Denver, Memphis and Dallas.
The Nuggets offered a frenetic pace and random offense. The Grizzlies staged a bloodbath. The Mavs offered technical expertise of a salty coach in Rick Carlisle, a wise quarterback in Jason Kidd and a player for the ages in Dirk Nowitzki.
Such a road will make the Thunder better. Such a road will make the Thunder much better.
“The experiences we had were invaluable for us,” general manager Sam Presti said.
The Thunder is billed as baby Boomers who will naturally improve. A bunch of 21- and 22-year-olds whose progression is automatic.
But Presti points out that “our improvement is not a matter of time. It's experiences over time.
“It hasn't come from flipping days off the calendar. Each series we played was a chance to learn and apply and prepare and compete.”
Check out what the Thunder experienced just this post-season.
A Game 7 (Memphis). Winning a series with an amazing comeback, coming back from nine points down with 31/2 minutes left in Nuggets Game 5.
Playing a must-win game after the historic collapse (losing Game 4 to Dallas despite a 15-point lead with five minutes left). A three-overtime victory in a game that could have put OKC in a 3-1 series hole.