Firstly, apologies both to the rest of the boys and our readers for my irregular posting for the playoff diary. I’ve been super busy the last couple of weeks, firstly with assignments (I still have one that needs to go in and it’s now two weeks late!) as well as working on a piece that I’m actually getting paid for (which will also be posted on NBAMate because I love you guys too much) and my LA Kings are one game away from winning their first ever Stanley Cup, which has also been played on the days I’m supposed to do the diary. So yeah. In the words of the late great Manute Bol, my bad.
That said, I did watch most of today’s game. By now, most everyone knows how it went – OKC, after falling behind by 18 in the second half, stormed back (pun not intended) and pulled this one out 104-97 to take the series 4-2 and make their first Finals since the move to Oklahoma City. It was a hell of a team performance and it was hard dealing out votes, but here we go.
3 votes – Kevin Durant. The afore-mentioned paid piece (now I can finally tell women I’m a professional writer! Yay!) that I’m writing is on Kevin Durant, and I’ll have it on here between now and Game 1 of the Finals if we have the time. I don’t know if I’d call this a true statement game from the Durantula, but 34 points and 14 rebounds is nothing to laugh at whatsoever. As much of a team victory as this was, the Thunder are at their best when Kevin Durant remains first among equals.
The Thunder have continually improved every year of the Kevin Durant era. Does that make them NBA champions? Let’s wait and see.
2 votes – Thabo Sefolosha. Thabo is the forgotten man in this Thunder squad, with most people seeing him as just the guy who plays a bit at the start before my man, the Bearded One himself, James F*cking Harden comes on to weave his magic. (If it wasn’t obvious, I have a man-crush on James Harden. It’s a camaraderie only other men with beards can understand. In fact ‘Bärte’ is German for beard, hence its use in the title).
That said, the biggest reason OKC won this series was Thabo shutting down Tony Parker from Game 3. If they don’t up his minutes and lockdown the former Mr Longoria, this series probably goes the other way. Parker is the conductor of the Spurs offense that won 20 straight games on a feast of easy baskets that I compared to basketball porn. Once he got neutralised, OKC were back in it and could use their advantages (youth and athleticism) on offense effectively. I nearly gave him the 3 points for this alone. Plus, for a guy not viewed as an offensive threat, he did OK this game (only 9 points, but he went 4-5 from the field and also snagged 5 rebounds) all over the court.
1 vote – Tim Duncan. 25 points. 14 rebounds. Looking effortless and slick as ever, even at 65 years of age. What can I say about Tim Duncan that hasn’t already been said?
As much as I’ve learnt the last two years what comes from writing the Spurs off…you’d have to think that they don’t have many more title runs in them. Duncan is off-contract this year and while I highly doubt he retires, I don’t think he comes back for more than a year or two. Meanwhile, OKC seem set to dominate the West for years to come, with Memphis and the Clippers continuing to rise. (I maintain that the Grizzlies are, as currently constructed, the only WC team that can beat OKC in a seven-game series). I’m not sure the Spurs go this deep again. Of course this probably means they win a title next year given that I’m consistently wrong on them.
That said, Tim Duncan’s legacy is pretty much set. When he retires, he goes down as the best power forward of all time (even if Popovich is finally admitting that he’s essentially been a center all this time), a borderline top-10 all time player and the classiest superstar of his era. Still, you have to think that not getting ring number 5 will eat away at him, because that’s the nature of the man. He may look and act totally chilled but you don’t get where he has without being hyper-competitive.
More than anything, today was a passing-the-torch game. It’s no secret that the Thunder’s model for building a franchise was heavily based on the Spurs. In this game, we saw one model small market franchise based around a humble, decent superstar and a near-perfectly constructed team, pass the torch to another model small market franchise based around a humble, decent superstar and a near perfectly constructed team. From here it’s up to the Thunder to take the next step and win a title. Just don’t be surprised if we’re saying the same things about Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City in 15 years time.