Just three years removed from a 23-win season, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder are headed to the 2012 NBA Finals. The Thunder are just four wins away from the franchise's second NBA championship.
For the first time since moving to Oklahoma City, and the fourth time in franchise history, the Thunder will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. Their predecessors, the Seattle Supersonics, made Finals appearances in 1978, 1979 and 1996. In 1979, the Supersonics defeated the Washington Bullets (now the Washington Wizards) to bring Seattle its only NBA championship. Now 33 years later, the Thunder have an opportunity to bring Oklahoma City and its enthusiastic fans their first NBA title.
On Tuesday, June 12, Oklahoma City will host its first NBA Finals game when the Miami Heat visit Chesapeake Energy Arena to face the Thunder in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals. The team that gets four more wins will win the 2012 NBA championship.
Before the 2012 NBA Finals begin, let's review how the Thunder won the West.
First Round- Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks
Oklahoma City opened the 2012 NBA Playoffs with a one-point victory over the defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. With 1.5 seconds remaining in Game 1, Kevin Durant hit a 15-foot jumper to give the Thunder a 99-98 win. Game 2 came down to the final possession as well, but this time it was Oklahoma City's defense that made the final stand. After James Harden hit two free throws to give the Thunder a 102-99 lead with 15 seconds remaining on the clock, Oklahoma City protected the three-point line and forced Jason Terry to miss two potential game-tying three-pointers in the final five seconds. The Thunder won Games 3 and 4 in Dallas to complete the sweep and fully avenge the 4-1 series loss they suffered to the Mavericks in last season's Western Conference finals.
Western Conference semifinals- Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers
After winning the first two games of the series at home, Oklahoma City fell to the Lakers 99-96 in Game 3 and suffered its first loss of the postseason. The very next night, the Thunder rebounded from that narrow loss by overcoming a 13-point deficit in the final eight minutes of Game 4 to earn a 103-100 victory. Oklahoma City closed out the series with a 16-point win in Game 5.
Western Conference Finals- San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
After losing the first two games of the series on the road by a total of 12 points, the Thunder returned to Oklahoma City facing the daunting prospect of falling behind 3 games to none. But the loud and raucous crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena energized the Thunder and helped them to a much-needed, 20-point, 102-82, victory over the Spurs. With that win, Oklahoma City snapped San Antonio's 20-game winning streak. The Thunder did not lose another game and won the series four games to two.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have defeated three recent NBA champions (Mavericks- 2011, Lakers- 2009 and 2010 and Spurs- 2007) on their road to the 2012 NBA Finals. To win a championship of its own, Oklahoma City will have to defeat another recent champion--the Miami Heat (2006). If the Thunder can get four more wins and defeat a fourth NBA champion, they will earn a championship of their own. And then Kevin Durant and company will get to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy in front of the Oklahoma City faithful.
Mark is a lifelong fan of the NBA who has loved the game of basketball ever since his first trip to an NBA arena. Mark has watched more basketball games than anyone can count and has hundreds of articles about the NBA published on the internet. Mark also shares his random NBA musings and game-by-game predictions on RandomNBAFan.com.
More on the 2012 NBA Playoffs:
Information from Basketball-Reference.com's Oklahoma City Thunder Franchise Index, ESPN.com's Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 Schedule, Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder--Recap--April 28, 2012, Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder--Play By Play--April 30, 2012, Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers--Play By Play--May 19, 2012, and San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder--Recap--May 31, 2012 was used for this article.