Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Everyone who said the Oklahoma City Thunder were too young to win a title got some fuel last night when they blew a 17-lead and Russell Westbrook committed a bone-headed foul to seal the game.As a result, we’re going to hear this cliche over and over again between now and Game 5: “The Thunder just aren’t ready to win.”
But if you go back to Game 4 and look for the things that “too young” teams tend to do — turn the ball over, get tentative, and (most importantly) fold once the older team punches them in the mouth — OKC did none of them.
1. One of the signature things that mature basketball teams do is fight back after their opponent makes a run at them. There were four moments in the second half where it seemed like Miami was about the blow the game open, but OKC came back:
- 79-72 with one minute left the third quarter (OKC got two hoops to make it 79-77)
- 85-79 with 9:00 left (OKC got a quick hoop to make it 85-81)
- 90-83 with 7:30 left (OKC pulled to 90-90)
- 99-94 with 1:45 left (OKC pulled to 101-98)
OKC got beat by a better team, but they didn’t fold like most young teams would have.
2. OKC’s young guys played great. The worst play of the game didn’t come from Harden, Westbrook, or Durant, it came from five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher — who took a terrible semi-transition floater with the game tied at 90.
Yeah, Harden had a terrible night (old guys have terrible nights too, like Wade in Game One) and got shredded by LeBron on the defensive end (not really his fault). But Westbrook put up 43-7-5 and Durant scored 28 points on 19 shots. Guys who aren’t ready to win a title don’t put up legendary performances like that.
3. OKC turned it over five times in the fourth quarter. But one of those came with 8 seconds left after the game was over, and another came 53 seconds into the quarter — so it’s not like they tightened up or got tentative down the stretch.
It’s easy to say “the Thunder aren’t ready” because it’s unfalsifiable and Westbrook made one dumb play.
But the narrative doesn’t fit what actually happened on the court last night.
Heat are a great team, and they played their best NBA Finals game since they formed the Big 3 last night. If the Thunder weren’t ready to win, they wouldn’t have been as close as they were to winning.
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