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The sound effects at home are music to Thunder's ears

Three straight victories over suddenly reeling San Antonio have put Oklahoma City on the brink of the NBA Finals, and the Thunder's intensely loyal fans will try to lift it there at Wednesday's game.

June 05, 2012|By Ben Bolch
  • Thunder fans sport their James Harden beards before Game 4 of their playoff series on Saturday.
Thunder fans sport their James Harden beards before Game 4 of their playoff… (Brett Deering / Getty Images )

OKLAHOMA CITY -- On a volume scale of 1 to 10, this might go to 11.

Some of the noisiest fans in the NBA could unleash their inner Nigel Tufnel, the guitarist from Spinal Tap, and crank up the decibels to another level for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.

"I can't imagine it being much louder than it has been," Oklahoma City Coach Scott Brooks said Tuesday, "but if it is, that would be great."

The Thunder has given its supporters ample reason to roar.

Three consecutive victories over the San Antonio Spurs have given Oklahoma City a 3-2 lead in a wildly vacillating best-of-seven series, which resumes Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

A triumph by the Thunder would secure the franchise's first appearance in the NBA Finals since 1996, when its uniforms read "Sonics" across the front and the names Payton and Kemp were among those that graced the backs.

It would also intensify the love affair between this Thunder team and its fans, hundreds of whom greeted players at the airport when the team charter touched down early Tuesday.

"You never get tired of that," Brooks said.

Oklahoma City has worn out opponents on its home court in the playoffs, going 7-0 and winning by an average of 11 points.

Of course, San Antonio also was unbeaten on its home floor in the postseason before Game 5 of this series. Then came a 108-103 defeat Monday in which the Thunder forced 21 turnovers and James Harden's step-back three-pointer with 28 seconds to play left the Spurs staggering.

"When we give them the ball easy, they just punish you," San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili said after the Spurs suffered their third consecutive defeat, an inconceivable nose-dive for a team that had won its previous 20 games. "They are good, and if you just say, 'Here you go, attack,' you have no chance."

San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich also lamented his team's lack of ball movement in its last three games, a factor that had been tilting in the Spurs' favor earlier in the series.

"You can see us try to do some things on our own, too many people doing it on their own, out of good intent," Popovich said, "but it leads to contested shots, leads to turnovers, that kind of thing, where you see Oklahoma City passing the ball and playing like we did in the first two games."

Ginobili and Tony Parker each had five turnovers in Game 5.

Neither team practiced Tuesday, and the Spurs might not be playing much longer unless they can turn the series dramatically back in their favor. Ginobili said his team had a chance.

"The same way we won two," he said, "they can win three and now we can win two."

To prevail Wednesday, San Antonio must withstand an auditory overload.

Brooks said Thunder fans have embraced his team because of its blue-collar nature. The supremely talented Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't content to let their skills alone carry them; they are continually striving to improve every aspect of their game.

"You can see it, you can feel it," Brooks said. "The energy in the building is because the players work hard, they are talented, they are athletic, but they're workers and you want to have that combination."

Just as home fans plus volume has equaled victory so far for the Thunder.

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