But now, they’re back. Expectation. Pressure. Stress. After the Thunder wiped their hands clean of the Nuggets, in terms of just taking another step, it was mission accomplished.
Winning a playoff series meant this season could be seen as nothing but a complete success. Oklahoma City had progressed a little more. There was another jump in the development toward becoming a champion. The 55 wins and a division title were great and all, but with home court, winning a series was the expectation. Anything less would lead to a wave of disappointment.
And it all went according to plan.
Of course, there was always the hope for more before the postseason started, but I don’t think anyone would be upset with a second-round dismissal at the hands of the top-seeded Spurs.
But then a funny thing happened: The Grizzlies won. They beat the top-seeded and four-time champion Spurs.
The team with Tim Duncan.
And as a result, all that stuff is going to come back.
The majority is already picking the Thunder. OKC is the favorite. Vegas says so; all the people that type and talk for a living say so. The Thunder have home court, have Kevin Durant and should have an edge. The nerves — they’re back again.
Here’s my feeling, however: I think people, myself included, make too much of this stuff. I mean, let’s face it: It’s the Western Conference Semifinals. There’s going to be pressure regardless of the opponent at this point. When something like the Western Conference Finals are on the horizon, if you’re not feeling a bit of anxiety, then you’re not human.
Against the Nuggets, the Thunder faced plenty of it. And I almost think they relished it. At a few different points, maybe they looked tight and nervous, but in the biggest moment with OKC down nine and facing a Game 6 in Denver, I think the Thunder did just fine. No doubt the expectation to win has returned. The Thunder’s the higher seed. They’ve got home court advantage. If all goes according to plan, they should win.
This is a pretty awesome opportunity for the Thunder. And not just because they lucked out with getting home court, but because this team is capable of doing something special.
It’s hard not to think about those three magical words: Western Conference Finals. Despite a 1-1 series tie at press time, it’s hard not to sort of glance past the Grizzlies and start thinking about a seven-game clash with the Lakers for a chance at the Finals. I’ve had to slap myself in the face at least 60 times to stop. Because overlooking, glancing past and taking things for granted is how you lose to someone you shouldn’t.
We’re all expecting another series win. Most of the NBA is. The Thunder are the better team. But these Grizzlies aren’t to be taken lightly. San Antonio showed us that.
Young founded DailyThunder.com.