Each time the Spurs passed the ball with precision, the Heat wore down.
While Dwyane Wade missed jumper after jumper after jumper in the championship-clinching Game 5, he looked older and older and older.
And the Thunder looked better and better.
Yes, that Thunder. The Oklahoma City Thunder. The team eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by these same Spurs.
After all, this Thunder team beat the Spurs six times this past season. Six, and that includes twice in the playoffs. The Heat, with it’s Big 3, managed to get away with only one, playoff win and very little dignity once the Finals wrapped up. The Thunder didn’t go out like that.
Revisionist history from the 2013-14 season will show the Thunder are not far removed from a title. Watch the Heat flounder around, losing their best player (LeBron James) to injury in multiple games and losing their composure and want-to in Game 5, it’s not hard to extrapolate that the Thunder could have done at least that well, and likely better.
Revisionist history shows Russell Westbrook was the team’s best player a season ago. Kevin Durant, forced to carry the team and the offense on his own, couldn’t do it against Memphis in the playoffs. The Thunder lost in the second round to the Grizzlies in five games. The result of all that: Westbrook, even by sitting out, got better and better the more games the Thunder lost.
And the Thunder got better and better with each Spurs win against the Heat in the Finals.
Turns out, the Thunder offense which betrayed them in all but Game 4 agains the Spurs was the norm. Turns out, Durant’s inability to have that transcendent game, the game the Thunder needed him to have multiple times, happened to James, too. Kawhi Leonard had something to do with that. Against Durant and James.
The Thunder didn’t get a lot of bench production. Didn’t get help from anyone â regularly â than Westbrook and Durant. Same thing goes for the Heat. Only James showed up and he was good, but not great. Same for Durant. Same for Westbrook.
Turns out the best team played the best at the most-important time of the season. Only the best team wins an NBA title. You can’t get lucky. Not when you have to win 16 times. The Thunder won 10 and they weren’t that far from winning another two.
Maybe the series changes if Serge Ibaka is healthy from the beginning of the series, but likely not. San Antonio played too well. They shot 70 percent in one half against the Heat and played so well in Game 5, James and Wade gave up. Didn’t even bother getting back on defense. Broke their will.
If San Antonio is the barometer, the Thunder showed they were as good as the Heat.
If OKC fans watched The Finals, they should feel better about the Thunder’s chances.
They’re as good as the Heat.They’re just not as good a team as the Spurs.