Nobody ever really wants to write the recap after their team has been eliminated from the playoffs. Sure, you might have a bone to pick or a story to tell, but even then, the inner sadness in knowing that the limelight has been taken away from your city and your team for a year is a grim thing to bear.
It's not like it's easy to hate your opponent. I was in Dallas for Game 5. The arena was nice, and the fans were alright. But it wasn't as loud as the Ford Center until Dirk Nowitzki hit the three in the fourth that finally gave Dallas the lead. Suddenly, the Mavericks fans were excited. All of those years of anguish over being perennial playoff busts had gone away, as the Mavericks finally had a legitimate shot at an NBA title. Even as a Thunder fan, I found it impossible not to smile.
But seeing the season finally end still sucks. Especially in the way it happened. The Thunder played the way they had all series, all playoffs, and all season. They played hard right to the final buzzer, but when they needed points the most, they found a way to falter. The Thunder were in the driver's seat for the majority of the game, but all that matters is what happens as the clock reaches 0:00.
Below: How fun the game was to watch, some metaphors, how the game ended, closing statements, awards!
The game itself was a heck of a lot of fun to watch though. The Thunder were up for most of the game, save the opening minutes of the first, a few minutes in the third, and the closing minutes of the fourth. Thus, the main battle was keeping the lead, and extending it as much as possible. As we all learned from Game 4, the Mavericks are an experienced team, and know to save their very best for the closing seconds. So all the Thunder could really do with their backs against the wall is build as much of a barrier as they could and hope for the best.
Watching them build that barrier was like watching an overambitious kid build a sand castle against rising tide. He can try to fortify his castle with clay, rocks, and moats, but there's nothing he can do to stop the inevitable rising of the ocean. Sure, we all believed that the Thunder could win this game. But in our heart of hearts, we knew that it would all come down to what happened in the closing minutes.
And in those closing minutes, the Mavs knew exactly what to do. All of a sudden, the paint was locked down like never before. No longer could Westbrook or Harden drive in for easy points, nor could they look to Nick Collison for a backdoor cut. They would have to rely on their jumpshooting, which hadn't really been clicking all series. Not to mention that the plays they ran were predictable and hard to complete. The end result was a slow, painful loss of the lead where the Thunder defense did all it could to stop the Mavs. Unfortunately, the Mavs are just that much better at shooting the ball, and when the Thunder finally fell behind after Dirk's three, they just couldn't respond. Shawn Marion had a breakaway dunk plus a free throw, and the Thunder's season was all but over.
I could go into all of the odds and ends of this game. How Daequan Cook never even took a shot, how the Thunder basically played the hardest five game series I've ever seen, and how Serge Ibaka's foul trouble turned him into a non-factor. But really, it's all been discussed to death. Instead, I'll close this recap simply by saying that the better team won this series, and that the Mavericks better watch out in years to come, because it's only a matter of time before this team triumphs. Go Mavs in the Finals, and go Thunder.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 31 Points, 8 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 2 Steals, 1 Block
Thunder Down Under: Nick Collison, 12 Points, 12 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 2 Steals, 2 Blocks
Thunder Blunder: The 0fers of Perkins and Sefolosha
Thunder Plunderer: Dirk Nowitzki, for his clutch three.
Next Game: Some time in October (Let's Hope!), but there's plenty of Thunder fun to be had in the off-season. Keep it here for the best Thunder coverage over the long, long summer.