There was a terrific Sean Connery movie in the early 90s called Medicine Man. The premise was simple, Connery played a hair-brained scientist who had been posted in the middle of the Amazon and had miraculously found the cure for cancer, and then poof, he lost it. He embarks on a journey with Lorraine Bracco in an effort to try and replicate the missing ingredient in order to reinvent the cure. No, the Oklahoma City Thunder haven't "found the cure for the plague of the 20th century," but what they have found is potentially the formula on how not only to beat the Spurs, but also for how to win their first NBA title.
Thabo Sefolosha and the Others
In the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, Tony Parker carved up the Thunder the same way a butcher would a piece of beef. Parker lived in the paint, looked surgical in pick situations, and dominated Russell Westbrook and the Thunder defense. If you're a basketball nerd and you get off on coaching adjustments, then Scott Brooks rotating Thabo Sefolosha on to Tony Parker has to be the highlight of the conference finals. In the 91 minutes when the two have been on the court, Sefolosha's effect on has been statistically profound, and if you watch the games it has been even more noticeable. With Thabo on the floor, Parker's AST percent drops from 34 to just 27, and OKC has done a better job at mixing up where and when they trap Parker in an effort slow his attack towards the basket.
The other noticeable shift has been the play of Thunder's frontcourt tandem of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Jonas Ibaka Ngobila (or just Serge). In the last three games Ibaka and Perkins are shooting a collective 77.5% from the field, have defended the rim against arguably the best power forward in the history of the game, and have dramatically helped turn the tide in the series.
Durant's Coming of Age
Superb. Phenomenal. Brilliant. There are about fifty adjectives that I could use to describe the recent play of Kevin Durant, but for a moment we'll focus on brilliant. What separates elite players from legendary players isn't just their ability to inject their DNA in a game, it's also how and when. In the last three games, Durant isn't just scoring with alacrity, he's been doing it the same way legendary scorers do. Players like Jordan, Kobe, Bird, and Hakeem didn't just fill the up the stat sheet, they almost had a sixth sense for tipping points during games, and had a knack for delivering uncontested chin shots to their opponents. Durant has now reached that level.
What has been a largely unwritten storyline this postseason has been the noticeable torch-passing that is taking place. Rajon Rondo has now clearly solidified himself as perhaps the best point guard in the NBA, and Kevin Durant is now arguably the best closer in the game.
Durant's emergence is that much more impressive given that he has to share the court with one of the most dynamic players in the NBA in Russell Westbrook. For some time we questioned if what ailed the Heat would inflict the Thunder: the idea of dueling banjos in pressure situations. But now it seems Westbrook has finally acquiesced, and now is far more willing to keep feeding a hot Durant, rather than forcing shots that take the Thunder out of their offensive rhythm.
The Spurs might be down, yet far from out
San Antonio knows they let one slip away Monday night. In his postgame press conference, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stated, "These guys can score, we're aren't playing the sisters of the poor here." Pops is the best coach in the NBA, a master tactician and motivator, so don't think for a second — even if the Spurs have to avoid a close out game in Oklahoma City's Thunderdome — that he won't find away to get Tim Duncan more involved in the offense and ratchet up their defense, which at the moment is leaking like a sieve. Manu Ginobiliiii, Parker, Duncan and company still have plenty of fight left in them, and despite shooting just 37.5 percent from the field in Game 5, all bets are that this series is heading back to San Antonio for seven.
Fan Hub Action
Marcy Kelly June 12th
Wow! I must have listened to a completely differnt press conference. Oh, wait- you convinently left off all of the good things they just got…
Nathan Devine June 5th
The dude is nasty. The fastball is REAL heavy at 97-100. Steady improvement every year.
Jeanne-Marie Jansen Lowell May 23rd
Greatest relief pitcher EVER! Someday we can all tell our grandchildren we got to see him pitch. A true legend!
Charlie Lobosco May 23rd
Ask Craig; I’ll say it again; not the best relief pitcher ever; the best MLB player ever. Yes, that includes everyone.
Jim Lowell May 23rd
Great tribute to a great player, a great Yankee, and a great man.Thank you!
Frank Lowell May 23rd
Great job, Ryan! As a life-long Yankee hater since the 1950’s in the closing days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, I can only sit back and…
Tiffany Riddle May 23rd
Love the article, and I completely agree!
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
June 18th, 2013 3:14 PM
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