Or at least this one denizen. I really had no expectation that the Thunder would hold on to their ever slimming fourth quarter lead. I fully expected a crushing, demoralizing comeback. But instead what I saw was one of the most impressive long range shooting performances since the Mavericks were dropping those very shots on the Thunder last conference finals. Seven long range and tough shots put in by Durant and Harden (just one make from Russell Westbrook – perhaps the least self aware player since Antoine Walker) in the fourth kept the Spurs at bay, despite their Big Three’s best attempts.
Even more unexpected was the abysmal performance by the Spurs bench – which up until last night had been rightly lauded as the strongest in the Association. They came up incredibly short last night. With Ginobili starting, Stephen Jackson was the only bench player to give the Spurs any offense. The rest of the bench combined for just nine points, including an 0-6 performance from Gary Neal. This was an unexpected turn, since the bench has been lights out at home.
So what does this all mean? It means the Thunder have the chops to put three consecutive losses on the Spurs. It means they now have stolen home court advantage. It means they are heading back to their fortress of solitude with a chance to put down the team that had thrown away a couple of ten-plus game winning streak this season, and prior to Game 3 in Oklahoma had won 20 games in row. It means that the NBA Playoffs are all about what you have done lately. And that a hot shooting team can overcome pretty much any odds. It also means fans of the Thunder will be wringing their hands when they’re not cheering their heads off. While we saw the Mavericks win the Championship last year, largely on hot shooting that did not fade out until the following season, we also have seen more often recent teams, like the Orlando Magic, get absolutely crushed when their hot shooting cooled down to normal levels in the Finals.
So are the Thunder more like last year’s Mavs or the 2009 Magic? Only time will tell.