The Oklahoma City Thunder have taken a 3-2 lead and now can close out the series at home against the San Antonio Spurs after winning Game 5 in San Antonio 108-103, as the shortened season seems to be wearing the ageing bodies of the Spurs down. What may be even more significant is a changing of the guard – the Spurs have made the playoffs every season since 1999, winning four championships along the way and having one of the best big three combinations in history in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who are 36,30 and 35 years of age respectively. [caption id="attachment_7586" align="alignright" width="200" caption="The Spurs and Thunder will both rely on their big men if they are to advance to the Finals"][/caption] If all three continue to play on next season (this season isn’t finished yet by any stretch) the spurs will again make the playoffs, but will the win the championship – my answer would be no. Not while the Thunder keep their squad of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden together (24, 24 and 23 years of age) who have all come from the NBA draft and developed together, as players and adults. The Thunder have matured greatly this season – they finished the season on 50 wins and 16 losses (compared to last year’s 55-27). Unlike last year when they folded to a veteran team in Dallas in the playoffs despite playing the better basketball in my opinion, they have responded as a great team should, coming from 2-0 against one of the most experienced teams in the NBA, to being on the verge of playing for a championship. While Westbrook has been a little down in this series (15.3 points a game), Durant (29 points), Harden (18.8 points) and the rest of the team have lifted their numbers while defending one of the best strategic, offensive and defensive teams in the NBA. The Thunder have showed they have matured, meaning that the experience of the Spurs means for little. Time will tell if the Thunder are good enough to go on and win the NBA championship this year, if they are not they will be back bigger and even better next year - something I’m not sure the Spurs can claim to do. Washington, Cleveland and any other team building from the draft take note of what the Thunder have done, where they have come from and where they are now. Interestingly, each year the Spurs have made the conference finals (1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007) they have gone on to win the championship, however thanks to the Thunder 2012 may be different.
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