As the Oklahoma City Thunder head home for Game Three of the 2014 Western Conference Finals, many of the players will do well to spend the 72 hours before tipoff pouring over tapes of the 2012 series with San Antonio Spurs.
Back then, OKC flew back to livestock-country having lost both games in the Spurs’ AT&T-sponsored building only to rout the ageing four-time champs in consecutive displays of athleticism to win the series 4-2.
Last season’s losing NBA finals sealed their current 2-0 advantage with a second straight hammering of Kevin Durant’s side.
The Thunder were held under the 20-point mark in each of the final three quarters to seal a 112-77 victory – a win that made Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker the winning-most trio in playoff records.
As you’d expect from professional sportsmen in their situation, the Thunder spoke of their belief to repeat 2012’s heroics. But, with a changed roster two years on, privately they must have a sinking feeling in their stomachs.
James Harden no longer provides the Thunder with a scoring punch off the bench, having taken his talents to Houston. In his absence, the increased onus on Durant and running-mate Russell Westbrook is stark.
The pair’s three starting teammates across the first two games of these Western Finals, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison, have scored just nine points between them so far.
Collison is only in the starting five because Serge Ibaka, the Thunder’s defensive anchor, is out with a calf strain. Without the Congolese, the Spurs have dropped in 120 points in the paint and Ibaka won’t be returning.
If that wasn’t enough, this group of greying Spurs stars are defying the ticking clock of Father Time and playing better basketball than at this stage two years ago.
History won’t be repeating itself in 2014, it’s getting made with the Spurs.
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