Thunder cap turnaround

Miami's LeBron James prepares to drive against Boston's Mickael Pietrus for two of his 30 first-half points. Thursday night's game ended too late for this edition.
Miami's LeBron James prepares to drive against Boston's Mickael Pietrus for two of his 30 first-half points. Thursday night's game ended too late for this edition. (ELISE AMENDOLA / AP)
Posted: June 09, 2012

At the beginning of the video the Oklahoma City Thunder play before their starting lineups are announced, there's a message on the scoreboard that reads: "Resiliency. It defines our team."

That was especially true during the Thunder's comeback from an 18-point deficit Wednesday night to beat the visiting San Antonio Spurs, 107-99, and clinch a spot in the NBA Finals.

But that was only the final step in a remarkable turnaround. It was only three seasons ago that Oklahoma City's new team was 3-29 and just hoping to avoid the worst record in NBA history.

"I think as a group and as an organization, we've seen some light, and we've seen that one day we'd be at this moment," said Russell Westbrook, who may best personify the transformation by working hard to turn himself from a rookie struggling with turnovers into an all-star.

All that hard work paid off with the franchise's first shot at the title since 1996 as the Seattle SuperSonics. The team's only NBA title came in 1979 back in Seattle.

The Thunder have made a steady progression since rallying to finish 23-59 that first season in Oklahoma City. On Tuesday night, they will host Game 1 of the finals against either Boston or Miami.

Oklahoma City has gotten this far with a youthful core of first-round draft picks Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka, who blended with a trio of veterans who already have championship rings: Kendrick Perkins, Derek Fisher, and Nazr Mohammed.

To get to the finals, Oklahoma City had to go through the only three teams to win the West since 1998 - Dallas in the first round, the Lakers, in the semifinals, and San Antonio.

"Those three teams represent 10 of the last 13 championships, and now they're going to go to the Finals and play either Boston or Miami, and that'll be 11 of the last 13 championships," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

"We've been through a lot, not just this year but first getting here, moving to Oklahoma City and losing and then the way we lost in the playoffs," Durant said. "We've been through a lot. We don't call each other family just to say it. We really believe in that."

On Wednesday night, Durant had 34 points and 14 rebounds while playing all 48 minutes of regulation. He also grabbed the final rebound, dribbled the ball across half-court, and raised his right fist to celebrate with a sold-out crowd as time ran out.

Rank has its privileges

The rich truly are different - even in Brooklyn.

The folks in charge of Brooklyn's new Barclays Center, future home of the Nets, have a policy that the wealthy should love: The 1,000 or so patrons who spend the big bucks for luxury suites and the 4,400 holders of prime seating will be served booze up to an hour after arena events end, or as late as 2 a.m., according to Fox Sports and the New York Post.

That's a far cry from the rules for those stuck in the cheaper seats, which run $15 to $55. The proles will be able to buy booze - at food stands or from roving beer vendors - only until the start of the fourth quarter of Nets games, as NBA rules require, or an hour before the end of most concerts and other events.

- Inquirer wire services

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