51-5---the difference in bench scoring between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder in the sixth and final game of their NBA Western Conference Playoff.
Substance over style---
We seem to live in a time of the "next big thing." The Oklahoma City Thunder can been intoxicating with their athleticism, Russell Westbrook is a blur in transition, always attacking the rim; Kevin Durant moves with an ease and grace that belies a man his size. While most are amazed at this dynamic duo, it seems to elicit little more than a yawn from the San Antonio Spurs.
Father time may march on in San Antonio, but Mother Nature continues to shine on the Spurs. Ok, so head coach Gregg Popovich may not appreciate the analogy, but it works. Isn't nature the sum total of moving parts coming together in harmony? The Spurs didn't even have the use of Tony Parker through the second half and overtime last night, yet, with little-used Cory Joseph helped them through a pivotal third quarter that swung the game. Sure, San Antonio's stars played like it, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were great, but Boris Diaw was outstanding with 26 points, another piece of the puzzle fitting perfectly.
I'm not ready to pick the Spurs over Miami in the Heat's bid for a three-peat, but no one should be surprised by San Antonio's success; they are the winningest team in the NBA over the last seventeen years, finishing no worse than second in the Western Conference ten times during that stretch. The one constant through it all-is Popovich, the ultimate example of form over flash.
Now what, OKC?
I love watching Durant and Westbrook, but too much is expected of them and there's very little in terms of relief. Last night was a good example; between them they had 65 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists, but they also turned it over 14 times. Even so, they were just a game and overtime away from the finals, so tweaks are more important here than wholesale changes. They have a pretty good working model to draw from in OKC as Thunder General Manager Sam Presti came to OKC from-San Antonio.
Two and through---
Yikes, a good season ended badly for the Valley which went a quick oh-and-four in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana State finished their season with five straight losses and were never a factor in two games in the Indiana regional, while Dallas Baptist lost a couple of close ones in Ft. Worth.
By the way, in case you're wondering how far away Wichita State is from being an NCAA tourney team again, they were 6-12 in games against teams in the NCAA Tournament.
What an honor for Fred Van Vleet to go back to his high school just two years after his departure to deliver its commencement speech. How wonderful is it for the school and Fred to share such mutual pride? When I was with the Shockers for their game at Loyola of Chicago last winter, the entire basketball team from Auburn high school in Rockford, Illinois came to cheer him on. Afterwards, they spent time with each other and the affection, both ways, was so sincere.
You've got to love a guy who remembers where he came from and is appreciative of the people who helped him get to where he is.
Championship weekend for the state's spring sports were good one's for a handful of locals. Congrats to the Carroll, Andale and Berean Academy boys on their state track titles and a high-five for western Sedgwick County as the Cheney and Garden Plain girls go 1-2 in the 3A meet.
Bishop Carroll, Augusta and Pratt all won softball championships and finally a soccer winner from this side of the state as Wichita Trinity claims the hardware in 4A. Carroll's win in 5A was practically pre-ordained; the Eagles were three-time defending champions and were unbeaten this season, yet they never let the weight of expectations slow them down. Four championships in as many years is pretty special stuff.