“It’s not like we’re playing the Sisters of the Poor,” Gregg Popovich had said. The first half tonight might have persuaded him otherwise, with the Spurs leading by as many as 18 and by 15 at the half, as the Thunder managed to exhibit almost every one of their bad habits. (“Uncontested,” said radio guy Matt Pinto entirely too often.)
Then the roof fell in. OKC outscored San Antonio 32-18 in the third and opened the fourth with an 11-6 run. With 24 seconds left, Kendrick Perkins, who’d not had a great night, dunked to put OKC up by six; the Spurs got a second chance, a third, a fourth, and finally James Harden took it away. The Spurs had to foul, the Beard nailed both free throws, and it was an eight-point game — and it stayed that way, with Kevin Durant clearing the last Spurs miss and dribbling it out. Oklahoma City 107, San Antonio 99, and that’s how the West was won.
What happened? Answered prayers, maybe; change of pace, definitely. Tony Parker, who had gone 8-14 and snagged a double-double in the first half, was held to 4-13 in the second. Manu Ginobili, who started again, had to sit for much of the fourth with five fouls, most of which he actually committed in the fourth. Tim Duncan worked hard for his double-double (25 points, 14 rebounds), and Parker still made a good showing (29 points, 12 assists); Stephen Jackson, seventh man, carried most of the load for the bench and delivered three-pointers practically on demand. But here’s the key: the Spurs got 34 points in the first twelve minutes — and 36 in the last twenty-four. Were they tired, or just damned?
Still, we must have a telltale statistic, and here’s tonight’s: Durant played the entire game, every second. (He once said that he’d play two games a day if they asked him to.) During those 48 minutes, he rolled up 34 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, dished up five dimes, and took away the ball on the last play of the game. I’m surprised he’s not offering to clean up the arena after hours. Russell Westbrook — remember him? — was fast as always, and more accurate than usual, finishing with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists. The Beard ended up with 16 and a big smile. But it was Derek Fisher, the Old Man of the Mountain, who perhaps best exemplified this team, this series: yes, he shot a creditable 4-7 in 23 minutes tonight, but more important, he knew it was actually possible to climb out of a 2-0 hole and still win a series. He’s been there, perhaps more often than anyone else.
To the Finals, where it will be — aw, who cares? We’ll beat them too.