May 15, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts after missing a shot against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half of game five of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Grizzlies defeated the Thunder 88-84. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Playoffs 2013: The future is still bright for the OKC Thunder

I couldn’t think of a good hook to this piece, and then Durant just took the words out of my mouth: “Sometimes you’ve got to ride out the storm to get to the sunshine,” Durant said. “We’ve got to continue to keep believing in each other and believe in this process and we’ll be alright.”

As soon as Westbrook went down, you knew it was coming. The “another finals run” thought was thrown away. Then it became a question of how long Oklahoma City will show heart and maintain that.  The Thunder scrapped their way to a 4-2 series win vs. Houston, and after Game 1 of the Memphis series, you still held that ounce of hope due to a guy named Kevin Durant. Then, it all perished.

In a blink of an eye, the Thunder lost four straight after going up 1-0. Not bad losses, but stressful and frustrating losses. Losses that will make you say “damn, if only…”. Games 2, 3, and 4 by three, by six, and last night by four.

Back-to-back years losing four straight to end the season. It hurts.  It hurts bad.

But, as we all know, and as Durant said, sometimes you got to just ride out the storm to get to the sunshine. And that’s what the Thunder will do. Take this series as a learning experience, and move on. Because that’s the only thing they can do.

In terms of the learning the experience aspect of things, the guy who profited the most out of the playoffs was Reggie Jackson.  Boy, does he have a ridiculous amount of upside and potential or what? The 2011 24th overall pick for the Thunder out of Boston College did exactly what Scott Brooks needed him to do with Westbrook out.  Last night, he finished with 16 points, and was 7-15 from the field. Jackson hit clutch free throws down the stretch in both series. He showed his progression as a player. He matured greatly, and as Magic Johnson always says, “you can’t teach experience.”

There are so many things I can say, but I just can’t spit it out. I guess the best way to explain the end to the Thunder season is what the Thunder organization emphasizes: Progress.

Scott Brooks said it well and it just goes to show you that this team’s head is held high: “You will see improvement within our group. Our guys really have improved, but they are not finished. We have a bright future.”

With a healthy Westbrook next year, and another off season for Perk and Ibaka, the Thunder are poised for another finals run next year. And, I can’t even tell you how excited I am for Westbrook to get that standing ovation in the season home opener. Until next year, its been a great and fun season. Keep your head help high, Thunder fans.

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Tags: Memphis Grizzlies NBA Playoffs Oklahoma City Thunder

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