Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder once again kept their championship dreams alive as they evened the series against the San Antonio Spurs at home, with a final score in game four of 105-92. Now is the time to wait and see if they can repeat history by beating a dynasty team to have an NBA Finals rematch against the Miami Heat, hopefully with a better outcome.
Serge Ibaka was in fine form once again in Game Four, alongside this year’s MVP Kevin Durant and the explosive Russell Westbrook. Ibaka had no more swelling in his right calf, however, Reggie Jackson did sprain his ankle in the first quarter, only to come back with a vengeance in the second. Both Ibaka and Jackson were lucky to shake off their injuries while helping the Thunder on their way to repeat what happened in the 2012 Western Conference Finals.
Since fans and critics alike love to compare players past and present, Westbrook now has a stat to boast about should he feel the need to hush doubters: Westbrook had 40 points, 10 assists, and 5 steals last night. This has not been done since Michael Jordan in 1989. Westbrook also played for over 45 minutes.
Game four was Westbrook’s best game to date, and his third playoff career game with over 30 points and 10 assists before the fourth quarter. This is a stark contrast to his angry exit last year after bumping his right knee against an opposing player, resulting in the Thunder being dispatched from the playoffs by the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Thunder now have beaten the Spurs in nine straight games at home, losing only two games overall, with “Iblocka” being one part of the game four winning formula. Ibaka’s presence was felt from the beginning. He blocked a shot, ran the floor and finished the play in transition, giving the Thunder their first points of the game and ending an 8-0 Spurs run. Yesterday, he spoke with one of TNT’s commentators, asking out of all the young African players who aspire to play professional basketball, “Why did I make it?” He is already in the history pages of great African athletes, that’s for sure.
In the first quarter alone, the Thunder had 9-0 fast break points and a 13-2 run in just two and a half minutes. At halftime, the score was 58-43. The Thunder’s Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams together provided eight defensive rebounds. Derek Fisher adds a great amount of depth to the team, especially due to his five rings with the Lakers and his impressive 3-pointers.
Westbrook could stop wasting possessions and move the ball more. The Thunder has lost games before due to his missed shots that weren’t easy. He made half of his field goals, and just two 3-pointers. It seems easy shots along with athleticism are one way of beating the Spurs. Commenting on how hard it was to win in Oklahoma City, the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili said, “I think they are pretty good. What should I say?”
One still must marvel at the Spurs. They have incredible depth and finals experience. But moving them up and down the court is very effective against them, given their age. A team still needs to be careful, for Tony Parker and co.’s efficiency cannot be left unattended. Boris Diaw provided nine defensive rebounds and 14 points – he, too, should be watched closely come game five and beyond.
All the Thunder players have bright futures, and it will be exciting to see history rightfully repeat itself, if they survive games five and six against the Spurs this week. They need to all work together, and not just depend on Durant and Westbrook as seen in games they’ve lost in the past. With confidence in each of their abilities, it is possible to reach the ultimate goal of a young team in a small market winning the NBA Finals sooner than later.
By Sibylla Chipaziwa