San Antonio Spurs-OKC Thunder: Game 4 Proves Home-Court Verdict Reigns Supreme

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IJune 3, 2012

Tony Parker split two defenders and created a clear path to the rim. He blew the layup and ran back to the other end wearing a scowl.

When James Harden fell backwards on the next possession against a double-team and still drilled a crushing three-pointer, a few things became obvious.

The road team will not win a game in these Western Conference finals.

Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins become competent offensive players when they suit up in Oklahoma City.

The whistles never decide the outcome, but the home squad getting an inordinate number of favorable tweets also never hurts the cause.

The San Antonio Spurs played well enough to steal one in almost any gym but fell 109-103 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Perspective tends to disappear in sports as momentum in a matchup shifts.

Ibaka played for most of Tuesday’s fourth quarter and was awful in the Thunder’s 120-111 defeat. In Saturday’s barnburner, he finished one basket shy of the NBA record for makes in a game without a miss. He converted all 11 of his shots and morphed from a scapegoat to a bona fide difference maker.

OKC poured in 34 fourth-quarter points, but how many of those successful attempts will drop through the net at AT&T Center?

Kevin Durant erupted in the final frame and threw more haymakers than Mike Tyson after five gallons of caffeine and multiple steroid injections. He ended with 35 points and, for once, a bigger smile than his mother.

Ryan Seacrest caught the action courtside in his free blue “Team, 18,203” T-shirt—how many Thunder players could he name without a cheat sheet?—and saw the sort of contentious clash he didn’t get from a dud of an American Idol finale.

The NBA loves when a series goes the distance. The drama compels viewers to watch and tends to yield a ratings spike.

Get ready for a Game 7 that will determine the Western Conference champion.

Has anybody seen anything that suggests Oklahoma City can win in San Antonio and vice versa?

Charles Barkley has a better chance of winning a mayoral election in one of the two cities.

The Spurs don’t need to regroup. If they played the same first, third and fourth periods in friendly confines, they triumph.

While both squads in this extended joust posted the two best road records in the West, there are too many factors that will inhibit a defining breakthrough.

Durant entered video game mode late just as Ginobili and Parker did to help San Antonio seize a 2-0 lead.

While that commanding advantage has evaporated, its impact and the history that accompanies the statistic still loom large.

Teams that grab the first two games win 80 percent of the time. The Spurs will not become the next victim to join the dubious 20 percent club. That is one rope—and it’s not made of velvet—San Antonio will avoid this year.

The Thunder have not emerged on the wrong end of a final score on their home floor in this postseason. The Celtics are 7-1 in Beantown. The Heat lost just one of the eight contests staged thus far at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Spurs are undefeated in white jerseys.

How can anyone consider those lopsided results and pick against the home team, at least in the West?

OKC put itself in prime position to steal the opener with a nine-point lead after three quarters. San Antonio then rung up 39 points en route to a 101-98 victory.

That would matter for the Thunder if the Spurs hadn’t trailed by just four heading into Saturday’s decisive 12 minutes, in a scenario where Duncan, Parker, Manu Ginobili and Gregg Popovich have rallied to break so many hearts and swipe so many pivotal matches.

The Thunder and Spurs might be the league’s best road outfits. That means about as much now as Danny Green’s three-pointer just before the final buzzer.

Forget it. Bury it. Not going to happen.

For all Scott Brooks did to adjust and for all Thabo Sefolosha, Perkins and Ibaka did to knot the series, Popovich and a few Spurs role players can turn the tide back in the other direction.

Duncan drove for a high-percentage runner to trim the Spurs deficit to 86-82. They just needed successive stops for a chance at the lead and perhaps control.

Durant said screw that with the kind of closing barrage that becomes the stuff of legends.

The only observers who thought San Antonio would stampede its way to a 16-0 playoff mark: diehard silver and black supporters and the same writers who now call such talk stolid and premature.

The former group can be forgiven for its unconditional loyalty. Forgive the latter bunch for losing perspective amidst the bedlam.

The decibel level inside Chesapeake Energy Arena must make it really hard to remember anything that happened more than four days ago.

Get something straight. The Spurs didn’t look old or overmatched. They looked like a team with no chance under these circumstances. When shooting 50 percent and racking up 52 points in the paint is not enough, nothing is.

That will change in the Alamo City. It will change again when the Thunder plays its final home game of the season this Wednesday.

Of course Oklahoma City’s key cogs did not allow the squad’s collective confidence to sink to the level of opening the door for a San Antonio sweep. A unit as talented shouldering the weight of such lofty expectations could not afford that embarrassment.

It won’t be enough, just as the Spurs committing just 10 turnovers on Saturday, 11 less than in Thursday’s shellacking, wasn’t.

Welcome to splitsville. Welcome to a clamorous fracas where the surroundings will decide the victor as much as the coaches’ adjustments.

Harden fell backwards, still hit a three-pointer and it became obvious.

Home cooking never tasted so good.


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