Expectations were high this season for the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they should have been. The past three seasons have proven that the Thunder are a worthy championship contender, but they just can’t get over that final hurdle. Last night was another showcase for the Thunder’s playoff woes. They ran into a veteran team playing at the peak of their abilities. It might have been a case of wrong place, wrong time. Or it could just be that the expectations for the Thunder are too high.
When analyzing this Thunder team, they seem to reflect the qualities of a very good NBA team, not a great team. It may be their youth and inexperience, which is an excuse that doesn’t hold up anymore, playing late into the playoffs for the past three years. Or it may be the roster. Either way, they need to find a way to get past that final hurdle and win an NBA championship. Excuses or promises of coming back next season as a wiser team won’t get you a championship. As the cliché goes: actions speak louder than words.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that many good teams with high expectations have faltered toward the finish line and never reached the pinnacle of winning the NBA championship. Michael Jordan kept many a good team and multiple Hall of Famers from reaching their goal in the 90’s. Kevin Durant still has a lot of time left in his career to win a title, but he will have to jump the final hurdle: LeBron James. James and Durant are in the prime of their careers and play in different conferences, meaning they can face each other, which they have one, with LeBron winning, in the NBA finals. Durant can’t let LeBron do to him what Jordan did to so many great players in the 90’s
While the Thunder have a young core group of players and dynamic duo in Durant and Russell Westbrook, the western conference and the Miami Heat aren’t going anywhere. There is no easy path to winning the NBA title. The Thunder are going to have to backup what they are saying and actually learn from their playoff mistakes. Bold words wear thin when they aren’t backed up by actions on the court.
It’s a shame the Thunder couldn’t advance to the Finals to have a rematch with the Heat. That would have been a great stage for Durant to prove how much he’s grown since losing to them in 2012. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next season.