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OKC Thunder Project Power and Depth — Eliminate The Clippers!


By Ritchie Totten — On a night when the Oklahoma City Thunder’s dynamic duo were off their game early — their tenacity — and the contributions of their big men bench when Serge Ibaca left the game revealed why the Thunder just might be the team to be reckoned in this years NBA Finals.  On a night when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook weren’t hitting early — they showed their tenacity and basketball savvy — just kept moving the ball — and grinding — and pushed thru to victory late in the game.  It was almost an act of basketball will and tenacity not basketball savoir faire that won the night for the Thunder in  the end.  And, of course, the sleeping dragon – Durant — reared its  head when it was “money” time in game six of the Western Conference Semifinals and pushed the Thunder up, over, and thru the Clippers — and to victory.

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And once again the Thunder, playing in their fourth Western Conference Finals in five years — meet their old nemesis – the San Antonio Spurs — for the opportunity to play for all the marbles in the NBA Finals — yet again. The Spurs — who can play with tempo — play big — play half court grind it out basketball —  shoot you out of the game from three-land — or just beat you with slash, opportunism, hustle, and finesse — await the Thunder now.  Something does seem to have changed in the dynamic between the Thunder and the Spurs this year.  The Thunder went 4-0 against the Spurs int regular season — and ever since the Spurs went up on the Thunder 2 – 0 in the Western Conference Finals a couple of years ago — only to lose the series 4-2 to the Thunder — the Thunder has seemed to have had the edge against perhaps the best-coached, most solidly fundamental basketball team in the NBA.

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In their games in the regular season — it did look like something was different between these two teams this year.  I think it is partly the match-ups.  The Thunder bigs — particularly rookie Stephen Adams and the aging warrior Nick Collison –are not only wider, nastier, and more bone-jarring in the paint — but Serge Ibaka  has added a reliable mid-range jumper and power and authority in the paint close in — that was lacking in prior years.  Ibaca, drawing attention from defenses when he sets up in mid-range jumper territory — has shown a new facet to his game — the power dribble-drive to the bucket from anywhere on the court.  And whether it is that the Thunder bigs are a touch faster — a touch nastier — good, quick passers and reliable as scorers around the rim, it seems like the Thunder wears San Antonio down as the game progresses.  And in several cases this year the well-coached, savvy, opportunistic Spurs succumbed to the high energy, high octane, up-tempo play of the Thunder dynamic duo — and their supporting cast.

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The entire play-offs this year has been one for the ages — and the Western Conference Finals — on paper — looks like it will be no exception.  The well-coached and savvy Spurs — representing old age and treachery — will test their will and aging bodies against the exuberantly high octane and athletic youth and dynamism of the up and coming Oklahoma City Thunder.  The Western Conference Finals between these two “best of the West” teams — should, past predictive of future, be one for the ages, also!  Bring the pop-corn and let’s get it going!

 


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