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Flashback Friday: 2012 Western Conference Finals

Flashback Friday: 2012 Western Conference Finals

The last time a fully healthy Thunder squad played in the playoffs was the 2012 Western Conference Finals against San Antonio. Time erodes the memories of games played long ago, so let’s take a look back at that season:

  • The 2011-12 season was shortened to 66 games due to an NBA lockout (not a player’s strike; it’s important to know the difference). The Spurs finished first in the West with a 50-16 record. The Thunder finished 47-19 as the second seed, a full 6 games better than the third-seeded Lakers.
  • The Spurs were #1 in Offensive Rating at 100.9 and the Thunder were second at 109.8. Both teams tied for 10th in Defensive Rating at 103.2.
  • The Thunder lost backup point guard Eric Manyor to a torn ACL nine games into the season. Rookie Reggie Jackson was pressed into the role. Because of the lockout, Jackson didn’t have the benefit of playing in summer league. He also missed the first two days of an extremely abbreviated two-week training camp because his contract hadn’t been signed yet.
  • The Spurs had a rookie by the name of Kawhi Leonard. He came off the bench to start the season but eventually cracked the starting lineup. Starting small forward Richard Jefferson was dealt at the trade deadline to open up more opportunity for the promising rookie.
  • The Spurs’ starting center (or “other big man” if you insist that Duncan was the center) was “Thunder Killer” Dejuan Blair, who had a knack for putting up big numbers against OKC. Surprisingly, at playoff time the Spurs pulled him from the starting lineup in favor of mid-season acquisition Boris Diaw.
  • Jackson understandably struggled in his new role. At the trade deadline, the Lakers traded Derek Fisher and a first round pick to Houston for forward Jordan Hill. The move was largely a salary dump for Los Angeles. The Rockets were a near-.500 team and Fisher had no interest in joining them. He negotiated a buyout, and the Thunder pounced. Fisher agreed to sign for $2.3 million for the last 20 games.
  • Diaw was waived by Charlotte mid-season. The losing wore on him and he had no place in the team’s future moving forward. He had a streak of 384 consecutive games played that was snapped when coach Paul Silas yanked him from the rotation for poor play.
  • Thabo Sefolosha suffered a foot injury during the season and missed 24 games. Initially James Harden got the call to replace Sefolosha, but coach Scott Brooks would later claim that Harden asked to go back to the bench after two games. Daequan Cook got the call for the remainder of Sefolosha’s absence.
  • The Thunder’s longest losing streak was three games, which came at the first of April. The Spurs lost no more than back-to-back games during the season.
  • The Spurs won the season series against the Thunder 2-1, with the Spurs winning one game in Oklahoma City. Harden averaged 19.3 points on 59% shooting in those three games.
  • The Thunder’s first round opponent was the defending campion Dallas Mavericks, and it was also a rematch of the 2011 Western Conference Finals. The series was over in four games as the fading Mavericks couldn’t keep up with the up-and-coming Thunder, who also dispatched the Lakers in 5 games in the Western Conference Semifinals.
  • The Spurs won 11 straight games in late March/early April. They suffered back-to-back losses and then won the final 10 regular season games. By the time the Spurs and Thunder faced off in game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs had won 20 straight games and 31 of their last 33 (EDIT: The Spurs had a Margin of Victory of over 12.8 over those 33 games. That’s formidable.)
  • Suffice it to say, some wondered if this might be the best Spurs team ever. That’s including the three prior championship winning squads.
  • In a feat that still seems unreal to this day, the Thunder came back from 0-2 to beat the Spurs four straight times to advance to the NBA Finals.

 

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