By Andrew Gilstrap
The San Antonio Spurs won 120-111 tonight and took a 2-0 series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder. One hundred twenty points in regulation by the Spurs: Yes, you read that correctly. This is from a team that is traditionally known for its defense, not its offense. As much as I have become a vicarious fan of the Thunder during the past couple seasons, I know the chances are slim that Oklahoma City will overtake the Spurs–which have won all 10 of its 2012 playoff games–in this series.
Watching the playoffs last season, I noticed that the Dallas Mavericks and their fans had the fire in them each home game. Fire. Charisma. Swagger. Whatever you’d like to call it, the Mavericks and their fans had that last year. They were riled up. And it carried them to a championship. These playoffs, as much as I want to deny it, I have noticed the Spurs and their fans have had “it” during home games, and the team hasn’t lost there or, even, on the road. As much as we’d like to call them the same ol’ reliable Spurs, something is different about the team: Its sixth man–the home crowd–is helping make the difference. Perhaps the team is simply trying to avenge last year’s disappointing first-round exit. Whatever it is, the Spurs are locked in right now, and so is their crowd.
During tonight’s barnburner, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker stepped up in crunch time to hit improbable shots and help the Spurs maintain their lead. Plenty of new offensive threats have emerged on the Spurs this year, but it came down to two of the team’s veteran superstars to seal the victory. Speaking of superstars, has anyone noticed how Kevin Durant doesn’t stand out in crunch time–this series and possibly beforehand? The Thunder’s offensive play-calling looking practically nonexistent in the 4th quarter tonight, but that doesn’t excuse Durant for not stepping up. That’s not to say he’s choking in the clutch, but he is too easily blending in with the rest of his teammates. I thought Durant was a superstar. The Thunder are going to need him to be if they want to win any games this series.
So, we got the Spurs doing well in the Western Conference, and in the East, the Miami Heat is looking strong after dispatching the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of their series. It’s too early to pronounce Miami as the winner there, but we’re most likely looking at a Spurs-Heat 2012 NBA Finals. It could be LeBron James’s chance to enact vengeance on the Spurs for their 2007 sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. If Chris Bosh returns healthy for the Heat, it could be one hell of a Finals.