For the past three years, I have kept a critical eye. I've always made sure to never buy into the hype, and keep my feet on the ground when it comes to talking about the Thunder. While the newspapers and radio were championing how great this team was, I was still reminding everyone of how far we had to go. But today, just for one article, I've decided to write a different kind of piece. After seeing Oklahoma City get a collective lump of coal for Christmas, I've decided to write an article only stating reasons why we will win this series. I know, there's a lot of haters out there who might think that this is way too homerish, but everybody and your grandma knows how and why the Thunder will lose. However, not everybody knows why the Thunder can win this series. I don't go too in depth here, but I touch on a variety of issues that could make themselves more prevalent should the Thunder start the fire by winning Game 5.
Reason #1: The Dallas Mavericks have never won an NBA Championship.
This is something that I think we all tend to forget. The Dallas Mavericks are the Buffalo Bills, Chelsea, and Cruz Azul of the NBA. They have choked time and time again when searching for an NBA title, and have done it in glorious fashion. We all know how they were defeated by the underdog Golden State Warriors in 2007, and how they lost four straight to the Miami Heat in the 2006 Finals. But not everyone remembers how they lost to the Spurs in 2003 Western Conference finals after winning the first game of the series on the road, or how they choked away a 1-0 lead to the lower seeded Spurs last year. Sure, sometimes they've outright lost a series, but this team has straight up choked a series more times than I can count on my hand, and with some of the same players they have right now.
Reason #2: The Mavs call extremely simplistic plays.
I think I can count all of the plays the Mavs run on offense in one hand, while I cannot count all of the chokes they have made in the playoffs. A backdoor cut to one of their wings, a isolation play on the Wing for Dirk, a kick-out to Terry or Kidd, or, if one of those fails, passing it around a lot, hoping someone will be open. As long as the Thunder can stop the first three plays in some way, they could grind the Mavs offense to a halt.
Below: Reasons 3-10!
Reason #3: Homecourt advantage means nothing to the Thunder.
The Thunder have won two games in Denver and one in Memphis under hostile crowds. Heck, they had the guts to beat the Mavericks in Dallas in Game 2. Homecourt advantage does have a certain effect, like the extended lead the Thunder took in Game 4, but in general, the better team will come out on top this deep in the playoffs regardless of record.
Reason #4: The Thunder are just as prone to epic runs as they are epic collapses.
The thing everyone seems to forget about Game 4 is that Dallas was reeling for most of the first half, and were barely staying in the game by grabbing cheap fouls. The Thunder were playing excellent trap defense and getting great steals, which led to some excellent transition offense and a sizable lead.
Reason #5: It took a 36.5% shooting performance and a 15 point collapse in the last five minutes to down the Thunder in Games 3 and 4.
The stat speaks for itself. You can speak all you want about how inexperienced the Thunder are, and how the last two games exemplify that fact. But, even for an inexperienced team, these events are extremely unlikely to repeat themselves. The Thunder set a new low for attempted threes in a game without a make in playoff history, and they let the Mavericks score nearly every time they ran down the floor in the closing minutes of Game Three. There are easy adjustments to be made for these cataclysmic errors, and had they not happened, the Thunder could be the ones leading this series three games to one right now.
Reason #6: Spirits are low, but nobody has given up.
Yeah, talking about the energy of the team is a bit passe, but you have to admit that there's not one single game in this entire playoffs where the Thunder have mailed it in when the odds seemed insurmountable. Their largest loss margin was in Game 1 of the Semi-Finals when they lost by 13, and even then the starters were still playing when the final buzzer sounded. After Game 4, Kevin Durant was noticeably saddened, but his tone was far from apocalyptic:
"There's no question that this is a very difficult loss, but it is a loss you have to take. You have to take it like a man and move on, and we have to somehow muster enough energy tomorrow in our practice and then come back and just focus on one game. We have to win one game."
Reason #7: Everybody can be looked to as an offensive option at this point, even Thabo.
Every player in the rotation at this point has had their ups and downs. And every single rotation player has shown that they can be a factor on offense. We have the usual suspects in Durant, Westbrook, and Harden, and the obvious suspects like Cook shooting threes and Ibaka dunking or hitting mid-range jumpers. But there are less obvious suspects, like Perkins getting a feed inside after a drive by Westbrook, Collison tipping in a narrowly missed play, Sefolosha taking advantage of no defense on him, or Maynor playing like a poor-man's Westbrook. As long as the Thunder look for it, they can find an easy basket. Watching Westbrook and Durant fumble around without Harden is no excuse.
Reason #8: Defense, Defense, Defense, Defense.
If all else fails, the Thunder can fall back on their defensive prowess. Honestly, that's about the greatest thing you can say about a team in any sport. We all know the old adage that defense wins championships, but how many defensively great teams do you see in the lower ranks of the NBA? Not that many, because offense is flashy and fashionable. The Thunder, however, have managed to make defense sexy by turning their defense into a highlight-generating fast-break offense. Getting back on point, the Thunder's defense has become their hallmark, and it has helped them out of many sticky situations. Heck, if it weren't for a block or a steal during the Mavs fourth quarter run in Game 4, overtime might never have happened.
Reason #9: It's been done before.
The Thunder have made plenty of history over the past three years, but sometimes, it's nice to know that the trail has been blazed by someone before you. Sure, it's been a while since a team has arisen from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series, but it has happened twice a decade in the 70s, 90s, and 00s. The 10s are getting a little overdue, don't you think?
Reason #10: Dirk Nowitzki hates exercise bicycles.
After Dirk and the Mavs lost a third straight game to the Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals, Dirk went crazy and attacked an exercise bicycle. I'm fairly sure that the American Airlines Arena in Dallas has one of those, so as long as one is in his sights, he might lose all reason and unleash an attack. Here's to hoping!