I'll start by linking to Xiane's "I've Fallen Out of Love with OKC" piece, which is brilliant and accurately describes my feelings as well. I say warning signs earlier this year. The Thunder felt entitled to their spot at the top of the Western Conference. But it's still honeymoon time in OKC. They had always had a fun young team. They had the second-best player in the game, and another top 10 player to boot.
Well, honeymoon's over now. You don't get to be #1 forever. The Thunder will be back next year. Russell Westbrook will be fine. Not only will be return by next year, but he'll have his full explosiveness back relatively quickly. And my God OKC fans, you can't boo every time Harden picks up a ticky-tack foul and goes to the line. Because:
1. Kevin Durant is leading the world in ticky-tack fouls called for him.
2. James Harden used to play for your team and draw those same fouls.
3. Derek Fisher is on your team.
As for Durant, what's interesting to me is that he's playing as well offensively as he possibly can. Should other teammates be stepping up for him? Yes, but by that same token Durant has been incredible all series and could just as easily be playing worse.
Finally for Durant, he has to see that this is what LeBron James dealt with in Cleveland for years. LeBron had serviceable role players but nothing special. He did literally everything for that team. Now, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin are better teammates than LeBron had, but Durant can't seem to figure out how to get them involved. LeBron would. Think about it: if you traded Durant for LeBron right now, Miami would still be the favorites, but OKC would have a real shot at the championship. Right now, the Thunder are a team that might win one game in the Western Conference semifinals.
Onto the Rockets, who are actually playing in this series as well despite what ESPN and TNT would have us believe. The Rockets need everyone to play like they did in the regular season. We don't need all-world performances from Chandler Parsons or James Harden, though they would be nice. The Rockets' average game is enough to keep up with the Westbrook-less Thunder, and a good game should be enough to win.
I think OKC will want this game. They don't want to go back to OKC for game 7, especially since the myth of "Even without Westbrook we're still invincible there" has been shattered.
And here's the sad part for me: I think the Thunder win tonight. I just have a feeling that someone else will play well enough to complement Durant's efforts. The Thunder won't Hack-A-Asik again, they'll play it out. And if they had played it out in game 5, they might have completed the comeback.
Also, anyone else hate the fact that the Celtics are trying to overshadow what the Rockets are doing? Stupid Celtics.
Tip-off is at 8:30pm CST on ESPN.