We've had a bit of time now to get over the sadness of losing. There's always going to be frustration in coming up short, especially with how talented this particular Oklahoma City Thunder team was, but now that we've had some time to reflect, it's worth remembering just how much fun this 2014 playoff run was.
We sometimes get caught up in the frustrating parts of the season, and there were plenty of those to go around the past couple months, but there were also plenty of incredible moments to make up for it. The lows are low, but the highs are so incredibly high. The Thunder plays their own brand of basketball, and when it works, it's entertainment at its finest. That's worth remembering, because in the end we put up with all of this for the timeless memories.
Obviously, winning it all would be the greatest moment of all, and the Thunder will have to wait at least one more season for another chance to get there. Nevertheless, this postseason was full of great Thunder moments. I already compiled a Top 10 plays of the regular season, but the Playoffs lends itself to a bigger picture evaluation, one that focuses on great plays, sure, but also great moments as a whole.
With that in mind, let's relive the best moments (to go along with some plays) of the postseason and hopefully lighten the mood a little bit.
Here are the Top 10 Moments from the Oklahoma City Thunder's 2014 Playoffs:
10.) Steven Adams gets punched in the face by Zach Randolph, leading to Randolph's Game 7 suspension:
For anyone that didn't follow the Thunder closely all season, these Playoffs were a formal introduction to the OKC Kiwi. Adams has a rugby mentality that basically relishes contact and physicality, and that tends to rub opponents the wrong way. Even more than that, Adams slowly turned into a really solid center, so his effectiveness as basketball player just compounded opponents' frustration in having to deal with him for extended periods on the court.
It may have seemed unfair to suspend a guy for Game 7, particularly one of the best players on the team, but Randolph legitimately punched Adams in the jaw. If that happens to 90 percent of other guys in the league, they drop to the ground and we have a full-on controversy. Adams just has a stronger jaw than most - see also, Vince Carter elbowing Adams in the face - and so the contact was minimalized.
Adams' ability to get under opponents' skin continued through the Clippers' series, it's just too bad Tim Duncan is a basketball robot that has no emotions and only knows how to win. Still, this was a fitting introduction of Steven Adams to the anyone that didn't already know who he was.
9.) Kevin Durant hits dagger turnaround jumper over Chris Paul in Game 3 against the Clippers
Thankfully, the murmurs of KD coming up short aren't especially loud after he once again came up short in his quest for his first ring. He failed to have that MVP moment that could have put his team over the edge against the Spurs, and that will likely weigh heavy on some opinions of him.
He still had some big shots throughout the Playoffs though, none more dagger-y than this one in Game 3 against the Clippers. The series was going back and forth, and the Clippers had a chance to put OKC down once again. A stretch run gave the Thunder the lead, and then it was just KD doing what he did so often all season - hitting a tough shot to suck away any hope the other team had for a comeback.
8.) The Slim Reaper arrives for Game 6 to clinch series over the Clippers
Speaking of KD, soul-sucking machine, Game 6 of the Clippers series was what most were hoping he could replicate in Game 6 against the Spurs. In all honesty, he wasn't far off. Still, this one had a little more of that KD flair, simply because of crisper passes, more lethal shooting, and more focused ballhandling.
Game 6 against Memphis was the first sign of the Reaper this postseason - coming in the wake of the infamous "Mr. Unreliable" headline - and this was just him taking it one step further in a clinching game.
You could really point to Game 6 or 7 of that Memphis series, or just The Oklahoman headline itself, to go here, but there was something about this performance that stood out. There was a chance to go for the jugular and not give the Clippers any hope in a Game 7, and KD responded. He crashed the boards, hit big shots, and controlled the game.
It's a level we all knew he could reach, we just wish he could have reached it a couple more times.
7.) Russell Westbrook connects on four-point play to force overtime in Game 3 vs. Memphis
This could very well go down as the 4-Point Play Playoffs. So many 4-point plays, particularly in big moments. Westbrook sometimes gets too carried away trying to draw fouls on jumpshots, but as annoying as it can be at times, it can be wildly effective.
As a whole, Westbrook's 3-point shooting always seemed best in big moments, whether it was pulling up to get a 2-for-1, or to draw close like right here, it seemed the tougher the shot, the more likely Westbrook would be to make it.
Of course, just like the other 4-point play in this series (stay tuned) it only forced overtime, and the Thunder couldn't capitalize there, but this was still a great moment. It was Russ being Russ, and coming through when his team needed him.
6.) Westbrook's steal and dunk force overtime in Game 5 against the Grizzlies:
Westbrook's defense has always straddled the line of "being everywhere" and "trying to do too much." Any way you slice his postseason, he seemed to dial in his defense when his team needed it most. He averaged 2.1 steals per game for the playoffs, none bigger than this one - well, maybe the one in the next video, but it's close.
It bailed out a truly baffling decision by Scott Brooks not to foul, and it still is almost unbelievable that he pulled it off. Picking a guy's pocket is hard enough no matter the situation, but to do it that cleanly, and creating that simple of a fast break, with that little amount of time left, was truly incredible.
Russell Westbrook is so fun.
5.) OKC comes back from 13 down with four minutes to play, and seven down with 45 seconds left, to steal Game 5 and swing the series with the Clippers in their favor
The controversial call sort of overshadowed just how insane this comeback was. The Thunder was down 13 with four minutes left! It took some ridiculous shot-making by KD, another crazy steal from Westbrook in a clutch moment, some boneheaded plays by one of the smartest players in the league in Chris Paul, and three massive, pressure-filled free throws by Westbrook.
It was games like this that made you appreciate just how special this team was. They were far from perfect, but it seemed like every time they got desperate, they responded with frantically beautiful basketball. It's why you never really gave up on them against San Antonio, because they just kept winning no matter how much it seemed like they shouldn't.
Such a memorable game, and one that you keep in the back of your mind anytime you think things look bleak.
4.) KD converts insane four-point play on one of the craziest shots ever to force OT in Game 2 vs. Memphis
Nothing really to add to this one. It would have gone down of one of the greatest shots in playoff history - except the Thunder lost in overtime.
That Memphis series really was insane. The things the Thunder did, you would swear they dominated. But the Grizzlies, true to their style, kept hanging around, kept making the Thunder make just enough mistakes, and won games even when KD and Russ made absurd shots.
The level of difficulty on this one, though... it's bound to make some playoff highlight tapes.
3.) Reggie Jackson drops 32 to carry OKC to Game 4 victory and save season against Memphis
I didn't even bother showing the highlights, because this GIF just said so much not only about this particular game, but this entire season. Something about the Thunder this year made them seem closer than ever before. They loved playing with, and for one another.
Reggie Jackson was at the forefront of all of that. He filled in admirably in Westbrook's absence, and had his fair share of struggles along the way. It never stopped him from being a key player, and his teammates always seemed to appreciate how he could carry games at certain points.
This was his moment, and it very likely saved the Thunder's season from being a massive, massive failure. On the brink of going down 3-1, with Westbrook and Durant both struggling, and Brooks' seat as hot as ever, Jackson bailed them out.
Again, think about what may have happened had OKC lost this series. Brooks is almost certainly gone, and the noise surrounding the Westbrook/Durant partnership would have been louder than ever. It prevented a lot of overreaction that was sure to come following a first round exit, and steadied the ship for the Thunder to make their next push.
That emotional outburst after the game said so much about how much it meant to Jackson, and how much his teammates appreciated it.
This team, man.
2.) Serge Ibaka returns for Game 3 and dominates the Spurs
Speaking of guys finally getting their due, the Game 1 and 2 shellackings had Thunder fans more thankful for Serge Ibaka than ever before. His defense was always great, but you never really realized how great until you saw the Spurs absolutely pick apart the Thunder without the anchor down there.
When it came out that Ibaka would play in Game 3, Thunder fans felt better, but there were still some reservations as to just how much of a difference he could make. Turns out, it was huge.
Hitting his open shots lit the fire, and he altered seemingly every shot that came at him at the rim. But the block on Danny Green (at 1:30 in this video) was most memorable, because of the way he came up hobbling after it. Ibaka clearly was in pain, but was killing himself to be there for his teammates.
Again, these guys just seemed to have a special bond this year, like they wanted to do something special together. It's what makes losing so tough, because you just hope that a potential championship team can be as cohesive and fun to watch as this one.
And when Ibaka found his way to the bench after this one was decided and hid his face in his towel, presumably to hide the tears? That was emotional, he earned it, and it's something we won't soon forget.
1.) The Speech
I remember getting off work early and deciding to turn on the MVP presentation just because. I didn't really have any expectations, other than "oh cool, he'll get his trophy, thank God and his team and family, and then move on." But just like everyone else watching, as it went on, I began to feel this sense that it was something bigger than we may ever fully appreciate.
I just spent this whole post talking about how close this team seemed to be, and how much they seemed to truly like one another. Durant's speech embodied that. He was the leader, but his genuine love for the role each and every member of the organization played in his MVP season was so, so refreshing.
Calling his mom the "real MVP' was the biggest tearjerker moment, but it was the teammate stuff that really resonated with the fans. I felt like I had a pretty solid grasp of each player's role on the team, but hearing Durant spell it out, basically giving a behind-the-scenes tour of the locker room, took that to another level entirely.
From squashing any fabricated "Westbrook/Durant beef" storyline that still existed, to validating Perkins' role, to appreciating Caron Butler, to even just acknowledging Grant Jerrett, the entire team had its moment. This wasn't just about KD winning an award, this was about a team coming together behind its leader and being rewarded for that.
We ultimately root for teams because we want them to get to the top. It gives us bragging rights, and makes it feel like going though the highs and lows of a season were worth it for that ultimate payoff. We won't see this team holding the Larry O'Brien Trophy this year, but seeing KD hold his MVP trophy, and sharing it with his team, his family, and all of us, was something just as special as winning a championship.
2014 will always be the year that KD became the MVP, and his speech was a satisfactory substitute for a championship parade.