This was to be expected. Everyone knew (or should have) that OKC was going to come out enthused, refreshed, and Chesapeake Energized by the crowd. The Thunder are better than the Clippers but were doing pretty much the same thing – getting loose balls, blocking shots and making improbably fortunate ones.
The lead was only thirteen points yet remained so throughout that third quarter. The missed shots, Thabo corralling Tony, and eventually, The Beard cashing buzzer-beaters off the backboard at the buzzer happened. The lead ballooned.
This was one of those nights that we hadn’t had since April 11th against the Lakers. Then, I was feeling that we were a sham. Memphis and Z-Bo first introduced me to that. The Suns-like offense and lack of interior defense was disconcerting. LAL’s Bynum dominated the paint in a way that probably justified the media’s inclination to ignore the Spurs’ 2012 record.
Tonight? Well I am trying to resist feeling like we’ll lose four straight. It kind of feels like those trips to Detroit in 2005… or those trips to LAL in 2001, 2002, 2004, and … My point? This happens in these playoffs. It is great for fans. You likely get to see your team put it on the opposition at least once, people buy shirts, and for one or two days everyone is happy. It is easy to dismiss as a one-off. If your just a fan, this is the best option for you. If you are in that Spurs locker room, obviously you will be focusing on reacting better to crazy athletes playing with desperation? Sometimes the other guy just wants it more than you do that night.
Thabo Sefolosha locked up Tony Parker – or at least made him work a lot more. The Thunder looked like the youthful team of destiny GQ wanted described them as and … hell, there isn’t anyway we’ll outclass them now, right?
The thing is, Perk likely won’t be able to flummox Ginobili on the perimeter and those shots in the paint likely will fall in two days. More importantly, the energy level will be more balanced.
Oh, wait. You’re concerned about Thabo, huh? To butcher a phrase from Game of Thrones:
“The [Thunder] played [their] little trick. [They] can’t do it again."
Well, they can play Thabo on Tony again. Parker will be prepared for that, however. He won’t be tossing terrible, lazy passes within the (surprisingly large) reach of Sefolosha, ya know? Having been chewed out by Pop, the entire team will have motivation of their own. The wounds of losing will be fresh and nothing pushes a person like embarrassment.
What is worse: The loss, or Bearded Harden staring down Splitter in a show of faux-toughness?
Answer: Having to deal with Oklahoma smugness.