You’ve heard the rumbling out there…at the barber shop, the liquor store, even the coffee machine….
The Thunder are good now but the playoffs are a different story.
This opinion is definitely popular in places like Los Angeles and San Antonio.
While the Oklahoma City Thunder have been killing teams all season, there have been a lot of rumblings about why they may not necessarily get to the Finals this year let alone win an NBA championship. First it is the notion that Russell Westbrook’s same somehow stands in the way of Kevin Durant being the team’s best player. There’s also the thinking by many that this teams doesn’t execute well enough in the halfcourt as other contenders do…..they’re regular season great but not playoff great.
Well, let me tell you something…as of today, the Thunder are the favorites to win it all. Whether intentional or not, they have sent a message in the last ten days…..
In the past, OKC has beaten both the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, and Chicago Bulls (minus Derrick Rose) in possible playoff previews. All three games had a playoff-like atmosphere as the entire basketball world salivated in front of their screens.
Against the Heat ten days ago, The Thunder matched up magnificently with Miami. Kevin Durant really made life hard for Lebron James, holding him to 17 points on 8 for 18 shooting. Meanwhile, Thabo Sefolosha and Dwyane Wade tangoed. Dwyane did have 22 points, but it wasn’t an impactful 22. OKC even showed some zone looks at times to frustrate the Heat and their role players. The Thunder bigs took advantage of the Heat’s weakness: post play inside. Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh were outmatched by Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. Chris did manage 6 free thows, but was floating on the perimeter by halftime.
The stellar inside play of the Thunder continued versus the Lakers the following Thursday. The likely conference finals preview turned into a tutorial on how to win big games on the road…keep the game close in the first half and hopefully take control in the 2nd. Oklahoma City did just that. The Thunder took the Lakers’ best punches in the first half and were only down 5 at halftime. Then they came out and dominated the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half, which all coaches preach is crucial. They held on to win it in an effort worthy of a hardwood classic replay on NBATV. Kobe Bryant‘s horrible shooting night against the Hornets recently may have started against the Thunder…as Sefolosha, Durant, and James Harden played him about as well as you can.
The Bulls, without Derrick Rose, stood little chance against the Thunder this past Sunday. But, unlike the Heat did recently in Chicago, OKC put the foot on the gas and never let up. They showed a killer instinct…one the Lakers wish they had. The old mantra “no lead is safe in the NBA” evidently doesn’t apply in the vortex called Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Obviously, championships aren’t won in March…but they are in April, May, and June.
It’s close enough in my book…..the Thunder are for real.