Kevin Durant: Thunder aren't in awe of former champion Spurs

By Royce Young | NBA writer
The Thunder want to get off to a good start against the Spurs. (Getty Images)

SAN ANTONIO -- This team is different.

It's one thing to keep saying that. It's another to prove it. And with Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals hours away for the Oklahoma City Thunder, they're convinced this trip is different.

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Last season the young Thunder were unceremoniously eliminated in five games by the Dallas Mavericks. That journey to the Western Finals reeked of a happy-to-be-here mentality. Not this time around. This isn't the up-and-coming contenders anymore. This group is currently contending, and hope the past lessons carry over.

"We've been through it. we know what it takes," said Kevin Durant. "We've been on the other side of it last year, losing. Hopefully we've learned from that experience and we've gotten better. We've grown since that loss last year against Dallas. We've seen it a little bit in those first two series."

Oklahoma City's shootaround wasn't anything out of the ordinary. The team operates with a business-like approach, while also keeping things extremely loose and calm. That demeanor is a bit of a facade though, at least for coach Scott Brooks who admitted to some nerves.

"Nervous is good," Brooks said. "If you're not nervous, you don't care what you do. And we care about what we do. We care about the outcome."

The Thunder come into this series as an awkward underdog. For most of the season OKC sat atop the Western Conference but yielded late to the charging Spurs, a team that has now won 18 straight games, 28 of 30 and is 8-0 in the playoffs. To go with the fact they're battled tested and own four championship rings. For a young team like the Thunder, it would be understandable if they're feeling a bit overwhelmed with the opponent. Instead, it seems like Durant has taken all that talk about San Antonio as a little bit of a sign of disrespect.

"We're all competitive guys and respect what they have done. But that was in the past," he said. "They've been playing as of late. We're 8-1 in the playoffs as well. But we can't worry about what they've done against other teams. We just have to come out and compete against them. None of the guys will be in awe. We respect what they've done. They've built a dynasty here. We've just got to come out and be us, and we'll be fine."

Said Brooks: "We're not coming into the game in awe. We're going to have respect for them. We know we can beat them if we do a lot of good things. And we also know they can beat us if we don't."

Durant had already grown a bit tired of the Spurs questioning he received earlier in the week, pointing out that the Thunder had been playing good basketball too. There's a tinge of annoyance in his voice when he's answering questions about how good the Spurs are, because while he clearly knows they're good, he wants people to understand this isn't a David vs. Goliath matchup here.

The Thunder's mission is to take one of two in San Antonio and grab homecourt advantage. They pulled off that feat last season against the Mavs in the WCF, but we're unable to take advantage of it. But this year's supposed to be different. It's a more mature group, a team that has learned and progress.

Time to prove it.
 
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