OKLAHOMA CITY — Say it with me Oklahoma…your pro basketball team is going to the NBA Finals to play for a World Championship!
In only it’s fourth year of existence, since moving here from Seattle, the Oklahoma City Thunder advanced to the title round with a come-from-behind 107-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night to win the series 4-2.
It’s astonishing in so many ways, but none more so than the fact the Spurs, after taking a 2-0 series lead, had upped their amazing winning streak to 20 games in-a-row.
But the Thunder closed San Antonio out by winning four straight to officially notify the basketball world there’s a changing of the guard and the OKC kids are here to stay.
Three-time NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant played all 48 minutes in the game for the first time this season, and he responded with 34 points and 14 rebounds including 14 points in the crucial third quarter.
The Spurs lit up the Thunder with incredible shooting, especially from back-up guard Stephen Jackson, to take an 18-point first half lead on three different occasions.
Jackson hit his first six shots, all from behind the 3-point line and when the Spurs led 63-48 at halftime, it felt like a seventh and deciding game would be up next, Friday in San Antonio.
But the Thunder stormed out with an 11-2 run to begin the third period and finally took their first lead since 6-5 early in the opening quarter on a Durant “3” to make it 79-77 with 1:30 left in the third.
When the period was over, the Thunder had outscored San Antonio 32-18 and they were back in it, trailing by a single point.
The Spurs last lead was 84-83 with just under 10 minutes remaining when James Harden scored off the drive on the next possession and the Thunder rolled from there.
Russell Westbrook finished with 25 points and 8 rebounds while Harden tossed in 16.
Veteran Derek Fisher was huge off the bench with nine big points in almost 23 game minutes to help push the “Comeback Kids” through to the next round.
Tony Parker was on his way to a monster game with 17 first quarter points, 21 points and 10 assists at halftime.
But the Spurs all-star was held in check in the final half with just eight points and two assists as OKC clamped down on San Antonio, holding the high-octane Texans to just 36 points in the final two periods.
Tim Duncan was brilliant in defeat with 25 points and 14 rebounds while Jackson ended up with 23 points as the Spurs watched OKC become only the 15 team in league history to come from 0-2 down to win a best-of-seven series.
Since the Thunder had a better regular season record than either Miami or Boston, OKC will enjoy home court advantage in the NBA Finals, which will start Tuesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena downtown with game 1 at 8 p.m.
- Bob Barry Jr. at “The Peake”