The Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs gave NBA fans one heck of a series in the Western Conference Finals this year.
It was a matchup of the two teams in the NBA who were playing far better than anyone else: the Spurs reaching a 20-game win streak after going up 2-0 in the series and the Thunder growing right before our eyes into what looks to be a potential dynasty.
The Spurs were the best team in the NBA. They hadn’t lost in the playoffs and not since April 11 when the series began. Their offense did not feature a top individual scorer in the league but instead a cast of players that knew their exact roles.
They played perfect basketball. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon. This wasn’t the boring, grind it out Spurs team of old but a fun, up-and-down team that wowed with the extra pass.
And in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals it looked like they were going to put the young Thunder back in their place. They outclassed them in a basketball sense and unintentionally mocked their style of play.
They appeared unbeatable until the inevitable started to happen: the changing of the guard in the Western Conference. The Thunder began to realize their potential.
OKC ran the Spurs out of the gym in Game 3, made them look old. Then in Game 4, Kevin Durant gave us one of the playoffs’ best gems, dropping 18 in the fourth quarter including 16 in a row for the Thunder. He struggled in the series somewhat until then, finally showing us just how godly he can appear.
Game 5 was the true test for the up-and-comers. On the road in San Antonio, you knew the Spurs would be ready after losing two-straight. The Thunder were not intimidated in the slightest. They stuck to their game plan and survived a furious Spurs comeback thanks to individual prowess in shot making.
The Spurs did not die right away in Game 6 in OKC, racing out to an 18-point lead in the first quarter. Tony Parker was brilliant but then the Thunder started to come back. Aided by the best crowd in the NBA, there was no stopping what was coming. The future became the present.
For the first time since 1998, a team not named the Mavericks, Lakers or Spurs would be representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. And the Thunder beat all three of those franchises in these playoffs.
This series will be and should be remembered for a lot of things that made it so great. But we’ll always remember most that it was the moment the Thunder came into their own, realized their potential and took that next step toward becoming a champion.