The NBA playoffs seem destined to set up a finals rematch in one way or another. With the Miami Heat still serving as the most dominant team of the playoffs, they are nearing a return to the finals against a San Antonio Spurs team they beat last year, or an Oklahoma City Thunder club they handled more easily in 2012. For a while, it looked like a Heat-Spurs rematch was inevitable, but now things are looking more like a repeat of 2012 -- especially after the Thunder easily erased another 2-0 deficit to the Spurs in Game 4 on May 27.
The Thunder's 105-92 win was only close on paper, as the Spurs were never in the game after their initial 8-0 lead. Instead of Serge Ibaka giving Oklahoma City a lift with his comeback, San Antonio was beaten the old fashioned way, thanks to the dominance of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Durant had a series high 31 points, yet he still played second fiddle to Westbrook's 40 points, 10 assists, five steals and 14-of-14 free throw shooting. Ibaka had nine points, eight rebounds and three blocks in his second game back from a calf injury that was supposed to remove him from the NBA playoffs. Instead, the Thunder are 2-0 with him back and are even at 2-2 in this series.
Like in 2012, the Spurs have lost a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals, thanks to two losses in Oklahoma City. By that pattern, the Thunder just need to win Game 5 in San Antonio to take command and move onto the NBA finals. Of course, by that pattern, the Thunder are then destined to lose to the Heat in five games again.
Facing Miami or any other Eastern Conference champion was a pipe dream for Oklahoma City just a few days ago. Now that it is within reach again, San Antonio will be unable to block out reminders of 2012, at least until it can win Game 5 this time. Until then, Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka will have their shadows cast over the Spurs and over these conference finals.
It looked like the NBA playoffs were turning into a carbon copy of 2013, although the Spurs hoped the end would be a lot different. But San Antonio needs a different ending right now, before 2014 becomes a repeat of 2012 after all.