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Thunder will learn from playing deep into playoffs

The difference between winning and losing was finishing

Royce Young June 1st, 2011

Sometimes, it just doesn’t even seem fair. Or meant to be. Or both.

Kevin Durant
Credits: Shannon Cornman

I can’t tell you how proud I am of this Thunder team. Not just for the season, but for the way they competed and fought in Game 5.

They were ready to go from the tip, ready to fight.

I think even us fans were sort of ready to pack it in after Game 4’s crushing defeat. I wouldn’t have blamed the team for just going through the motions, for just showing up. I kind of felt like cheering through the motions.

Despite trying to talk myself out of it, the mountain the Thunder had to climb was too steep and the cruelty of Game 4 too fresh.

But with their hands on another win — I mean, they were right there — the final few minutes doomed the Thunder. Scott Brooks pulled out all the stops. Russell Westbrook absolutely busted his butt. Nick Collison did his Nick Collison thing. Kevin Durant, Eric Maynor — everyone — put in the work.

Losing a seven-point fourth quarter lead makes me want to belly-flop into an empty pool, but sometimes, it’s just not your time. It was Dirk Nowitzki’s time. It was just meant to be for the Dallas Mavs.

It hurts now, because the wounds were just opened. You all had visions of a Game 6 in Oklahoma City and thoughts of a comeback in your head.

I know, I felt it, too. The way the team was playing, the way they were fighting — they proved over five games that they were every bit as good as the Mavs.

The difference? Dallas knew how to finish; the Thunder didn’t.

It all kind of shows you just how close a playoff series can be, even when it’s decided in five games. This was close to being 3-2 in the Thunder’s favor coming back to OKC for a Game 6.

Really close. But a play here, a foul there and a rebound everywhere kept it from happening. That’s just how fragile the playoffs are, especially when you’re in the Western Conference finals.

The difference between winning and losing this series was miniscule. A few bounces went Dallas’ way, a few tough shots dropped for the Mavs and a few calls went in their favor.

It’s the nature of the fan beast to want big, bold changes to fix what went wrong, but really, with the youth of this group, the fix might just be the experience of this series.

There was absolutely no better experience for this team to have.

We’re going to be thinking about every one of those moments until training camp five months from now (well, hopefully, you know, lockout and all).

If you think you’re going to be killing yourself a hundred times over about this, think about the 15 guys on that roster. They’re dying right now. This hurts. They put in all the sweat and all the work. They fought, clawed and did everything they could do to bring you a trophy.

We did the easy part. We got to watch them play basketball, which was a joy.

While it’s impossible not to be disappointed, this season was truly special. An opportunity was there for the Thunder, but here’s the beauty of General Manager Sam Presti’s master plan: The opportunity should be right there again for roughly the next seven to 10 years.

They’ll learn. They’ll improve.

They’ll evolve.

And I have no doubt: They’ll be back.

Young founded 

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