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Spurs White Outed: When the Thunder Rolls

Harden/Durant

The Oklahoma City Thunder's Game 5 win in San Antonio is potentially the biggest victory in franchise history. Courtesy: Nate Billings/The Oklahoman

So, Garth Brooks is from Oklahoma.  Naturally a team christened with the name “Supersonics” would just have to go Chad Ochocinco on its history. Utah found a way to stick with the Jazz team name. That was not good enough for Oklahoma City.

Not when a Garth song would provide both a mascot while moving from Seattle, then years later a theme song for what might been seen as the franchise’s turning point in history.

Because “When the Thunder Rolls”, games like Game 5 happen to change everything.

Spurs White Out

The AT&T Center was armed for a "White Out", which effectiveness is correlated with the percentage of fans who actually wear them. Courtesy: Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

Like this perception: 2012 might be OKC’s time after all. One week ago Oklahoma City and their just-over-23-years of age average of their starting lineup looked at least a year away.

Attitudes can change in a hurry when the Thunder rolls.

Manu Intro

Manu Ginobili was in Warrior mode in Game 5 for the Spurs. But it still would not be enough to stop the rolling Thunder. Courtesy: D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

For instance, when the Thunder rolls, Oklahoma City can withstand all the wizardry Manu Ginobili slings from his left hand.  And still win always pivotal Game 5 on the road, 108-103.  OKC’s 3-2 Western Conference Finals series lead pushing the once-unbeatable Spurs one loss away from kick-starting summer vacation.

Danny Green Daequan Cook

The Thunder's Daequan Cook scored 8 points in just two minutes of action. Danny Green was nowhere near as productive for the Spurs in Game 5. Courtesy: Eric Gay/AP

When the Thunder rolls, Daequan Cook can come in cold off the bench and drain 3 straight shots for 8 difference making points for OKC. In just two minutes of playing time.  Meanwhile Gary Neal lost all his Game 1 mojo, going a perfect 6-for-6 on field goal misses.  Difference making misses.

Durant

Kevin Durant scored only five points in the first half, but unleashed a 22-point attack after the intermission. Courtesy: Nate Billings/The Oklahoman

Kevin Durant can patiently wait to strike up his lethal offensive game, and OKC can still hold a eight point halftime lead when the Thunder rolls.  KD didn’t wait for the final quarter to shift into closer mode.  The Durantula began his Game 5 assault in the 3rd quarter, answering the Manu Mudslide of 3-point bombs that pushed the Spurs back on top.  Not for long.  KD instigating and initiating the 20-5 OKC run to end the third. Sealed with a buzzer beater that felt like a sledgehammer to the side of the Spurs’ collective heads.

Durant Drive

The Durantula sparked a 20-5 OKC run to close the 3rd quarter. Courtesy: Eric Gay/AP

You know what else happens when the Thunder rolls? A team known for not wilting under the playoff heat lamp melts at home for 21 turnovers.  The rolling Thunder can turn that many miscues into 28 points while sleep walking.

When the Thunder rolls, the Spurs role players do a lot of rolling over.  Besides Ginobili and Steven Jackson (who you know would kill to have another look at that missed runner late in the 4th), who else produced for the Spurs? Kawhi Leonard at times offensively, much more defending and with his 10 rebounds. Boris Diaw? Inconsistent. Matt Bonner? Dejuan Blair? Tiago Splitter?

Somebody stop me when I finally hit the hot hand in the supporting cast.

Pop

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich rolled the dice in starting Ginobili in place of Danny Green. The results: mixed, with Manu soaring and Green ineffective. Courtesy: Ronaldo Martinez/Getty Images

When the Thunder rolls, the best coach in the business is forced to do away with the mantra he started this playoff run with: Gregg Popovich said before the Jazz series that the Spurs would “go with what got us here.”  Not anymore. It’s easy enough sticking with the 9-10 man rotation when everyone is making open shots.  Once again, not anymore.

Manu

Manu Ginobili scored 13 of his 34 points in a 3rd quarter flurry that briefly put the Spurs back on top. But not for long. Courtesy: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Pop going with Manu in the starting lineup did allow Ginobili to blow up for 34 points, but at what cost?  The Spurs’ offensive sets became adventures in X’s and O’s.  The Spurs once had a rock solid rotation where every player knew their role. Now in Game 5 SA instead subjected us all to periods of preseason ineptitude.

Then there’s the other big collateral damage of starting Manu: it’s like Pop takes a wrecking ball to the fading confidence of Danny Green.  Charles Barkley said as much on the TNT pregame when the switch was announced. Unfortunately, Sir Chuck couldn’t have been more on target. Green was ineffective, unsure and borderline unplayable.

Harden shot

James Harden hit the biggest shot of his career, and possibly the biggest in OKC Thunder history, when he buried a 3-point dagger with 28 seconds left in Game 5. Courtesy: Nate Billings/The Oklahoman

Then when the Thunder rolls, moments like the one James Harden was facing have to be met.  The Beard’s hairy-tough, arcing, shot clock winding down, machete of a 3-point shot with 28 seconds left is the kind of snapshot where you frame the theme of the young team crashing the championship party. Leonard’s defense on Harden was as well as the Spurs could have wished for, and the NBA 6th Man of the Year still swished it home for the five point lead.

Then still, even despite all that, here stood the Spurs: 15 seconds left and the ball, down by three.  Time for some more Manu Magic. Only this time his three point attempt rims out. One shot goes in. The other misses.

Harden doing to the Spurs what Ginobili has spent a career doing to other teams. Torches are passed down to younger generations that way.

Former Spur, and current TNT analyst Steve Kerr asked as much near the end, “Are we witnessing the passing of the torch in the Western Conference?” The thing is, it sure felt that way.

Three Amigos

SA's Three Amigos need to find a way to end the Spurs only 3-game losing streak of the season in Game 6 Wednesday night in Oklahoma City. Courtesy: Eric Gay/AP

The Spurs messed with their starting lineup and their rotations.  Manu mixed up another bag of tricks for an MVP-caliber performance. SA threw at them runs buoyed by the rumbling, White-Outed T-shirted AT&T Center home crowd. OKC even tried giving the Spurs a bucket of extra-life chances to get back in the game.

And OKC still won Game 5.  That’s what happens when the Thunder rolls.

About Maury Vasquez

Maury Vasquez is part of San Antonio's sports history and tradition. Vasquez worked with the KENS-5 Sports team under the legendary Dan Cook in the 90's before joining the top rated news team at KSAT-12. His career in broadcasting expands over 20 years in San Antonio and South Texas. Today, Maury works full time as the Public Information Officer for Somerset ISD giving a voice to the Bulldog Nation of students and staff. And his love for sports continues, by co-hosting "Longhorns Unplugged" on Ticket 760 AM along with co-hosting the "SASports.com HS Football Scoreboard Show". You can also find Vasquez Saturday mornings at the Mays Family "Field of Dreams" next to Wolff Stadium, where he serves as the announcer for the Miracle League baseball spring and fall seasons. Maury Vasquez is a native of Mercedes, TX from the Rio Grande Valley who has called SA home since 1992. He is also the proud father of two children, Valerie and Mauro IV. Maury writes for AlamoCityTimes.com about whatever moves him in the world of sports to the game of life, and just about anything in between.

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