I confess - as the horn sounded last night, as Dallas celebrated, and as the Thunder reacted in stunned silence, I, like OKC, wondered how it all slipped away so easily. Like sand escaping through a clenched fist, each game was there to be seized, and four times the Thunder tried to grip it too tightly, and the wins eluded them. It is always hard to be beaten when the stakes are high, but to be beaten...to lose...when the win is within your grasp and you stagger to the finish line, all that leaves you with is lots of time for contemplation. And yet, as I hoped for yesterday, the Thunder can leave that game with their respect intact. Yes, they lost a lead late, but once again they showed that they can figure things out. They can and will learn these lessons. They comported themselves with dignity and they lost with honor. There is no shame. There is hope and a future.
Speaking of which, now what am I supposed to do with myself?
Mayberry's postgame notes. The players, while somber, are extremely self-aware of how far they have come this season as well as how far they have to go.
Young writes as both a pro and a fan. The loss hurts, but it only hurts because he, and we, allowed ourselves to become so emotionally invested in this young team. They went down fighting though, and even though the loss stings, they can hold their heads high. And you know they finished well, because they're eager to get next season started already.
They provide the normal excellent run-down of player and coach reactions. I think it is possible that both teams came out ahead after this series.
The team acquitted itself well, barely two days after their demoralizing collapse. They played hard, they played smart, and they played within themselves emotionally. They executed a new game plan beautifully. In the end though, fortune favored the favorites.
We know that the Thunder kids are gentlemen of character. What this series also showed us is that so are the Mavericks:
Before the celebration got started, before they joined the city in a party destined to go all night, there was one thing the Mavericks needed to do: Find Kevin Durant. One by one, players hurried in his direction. First Dirk Nowitzki. Then Jason Kidd, followed by Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler. Each pulled a dazed Durant into an embrace, each whispered words of encouragement into his ear.
More links after the jump.
MMB provides its post-game synopsis, and as you can probably guess, there is much jubilee. However, it is still understated and serious, because 2006 was not that long ago.
The Dallas team was on a march to reach some unforgotten closure, and it showed throughout the whole series.
The Thunder showed true growth in Game Five, and in particular, the 4th quarter. No, they still did not get the points they needed, but as Pelton explains, it was not because of bad offense. Shots rimmed out, fouls were not called, and the Mavs got lucky bounces. It isn't always fair, but it is life.
The Mavericks have endured some painful seasons this past decade, but it all seems to be coming together now, at this very moment.
James Harden's play down the stretch has really opened up some eyes. Anyone still doubt GM Presti's draft pick?
Dallas certainly has the look of a team that is locked in a singular goal. They have ghosts to get rid of.
Stein writes that Dallas knows how much more work needs to be done, especially if they get their long-awaited rematch with the 2006 champion Heat.
Dallas had to come from behind once again, but just like in their series against the Lakers, it was no big thing. They knew what to do and how to do it.