I realize it's easy to say all that I am about to say after the fact, but I'm doing it anyway and I'll cling to the fact that I did predict OKC in 6 before the series started.
Here it goes: This should hardly be considered an upset. The Thunder has had the Spurs number since 2012 and have always had an athletic advantage that the Spurs simply couldn't withstand over the course of a series - save for 2014 when
Ibaka's calf Boris Diaw brought dynamic playmaking from a position that wasn't traditionally known for it and it threw the Thunder for a loop.
That edge didn't stop everybody from coming into the series touting the usual Spurs stuff: They're so dominant! Kawhi is the 2nd-best player in the league! Pop is going to run circles around Donovan! (OK, I may have said that last one, too). And yeah, 67 wins in the regular season probably made them a favorite on paper. But the gap was never as wide as it was presented to be.
Those assertations were ridiculous for the simple fact that Thunder fans, however biased we probably are, knew all along how good this team is when they are clicking on all cylinders. We also knew it was inevitable that they would click on all cylinders when it mattered most.
Beyond that, there was something about this Spurs team that felt like a mirage. Sure, they won a ton of games, but they beat the Warriors once and they beat a full-strength Thunder team once. I realize this is a baseball example and I have zero empirical evidence to link the two, but this old Grantland (RIP) article by Jonah Keri on the St. Louis Cardinals not being as good as their record suggested (because of "cluster luck") always seemed pertinent to this iteration of the Spurs. They just seemed like a team that wasn't making any mistakes, but could easily be exposed when they faced a real challenge. The whole Cardinals fan/Spurs fan parallels are just a happy coincidence.
Sure, the Thunder basically no-showed Game 1 and it looked like maybe they actually wouldn't figure it out. And sure, it was terrifying when the Spurs were up 2-1 and it seemed like a 4-1 series loss would almost definitely lead to KD signing elsewhere in July. Still, the whole "Warriors/Spurs and everyone else" narrative, coupled with Kawhi coming in second in MVP voting, most certainly woke this team up and they responded when they needed to. In the way we all expected that they could and would.
So yeah, some of this may be gloating after the fact, but I don't care because the Oklahoma City Thunder are heading back to the Conference Finals for the fourth time in six seasons and they get to play the "us against the world" card.
Things are good, at least for the weekend, so enjoy my lighthearted conversation (and some occasional gloating) with WTLC's own Rohan Ramnarain (aka rustybrooks around these parts) as we discuss this series, Dion, Dre, Kiwi, Kanter and Billy, and take a quick look at what to look forward to against the Warriors.
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