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The Sixth Man: Thunderstruck: Youth is served in OKC

Charles Barkley recently said "old guys win championships."

And that's the conventional thinking in the NBA, where experience means so much in the playoffs. Heck, even Oklahoma City can see the way Derek Fisher turns from major liability into cold-blooded killer the minute the clock starts to wind down in an important game.

But this Thunder team isn't about Fisher -- it's all about youth. All about the three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant. All about the wildly athletic Russell Westbrook. All about "The Beard" James Harden and the game's best shot-blocker, Serge Ibaka.

The young nucleus of Oklahoma City is heading to the franchise's first NBA Finals since 1996 at the expense of the game's most accomplished trio, San Antonio's Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, in a most improbable fashion.

After falling behind 0-2 in the Western Conference finals, the Thunder manhandled a team that hadn't lost in 50 days four straight times in a week, culminating in Wednesday's 107-99, comeback win in Game 6.

"As sad and as disappointed as we are," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, "it's like a Hollywood script for Oklahoma City."

Indeed, OKC sprinted through the West by sweeping Dallas, taking the L.A. Lakers in five games and finishing off the Spurs in six, three teams that are responsible for 10 of the last 13 NBA titles.

The Spurs used all that experience to jump out to an 18-point lead on Wednesday, but in the end their legs betrayed them as Durant, Westbrook and Harden particularly got anywhere they wanted virtually whenever they wanted.

"I thought this was definitely our time, our time to get back to the Finals, our time to push for another championship," Duncan said. "That was our singular goal, and obviously it ends here."

Durant ended with 34 points and 14 rebounds while Westbrook added 25 points, as the Thunder rallied to win the Western Conference title.

"(An) amazing moment for him to play like this in this moment, in this setting. I wasn't going to take him out," Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks said of Durant's sensational 48-minute night.

For the entire first half, it appeared Game 6 was a mere formality in lieu of a deciding Game 7, as San Antonio looked poised and ready to lean on its mettle-tested veteran leadership.

Down 15 at intermission, an 11-2 run to start the second half got the Thunder back in the game, fueling a monster 32-18 quarter that proved to be San Antonio's undoing.

"We changed our body language, our spirit (after halftime)," Brooks said. "We weren't going to win the game playing the same way."

By the fourth quarter, it looked like the Spurs were playing on a beach as the Thunder raced by them time and time again, winning nearly every 50-50 play in the quarter.

"I thought everybody gave all they could," Duncan said. "OKC just showed they were a better team."

If youth is wasted on the young as George Bernard Shaw once noted, it sure as hell also wears on the aged, at least when a little maturity accompanies it.

"Everybody wants to be the last team standing," Popovich said. "I thought this team did everything it could possibly do to go as far as it could."

Pop's right. The Spurs did everything they could and still didn't have any answers for the Thunder's athleticism.

And somewhere in Boston, the Celtics, while still focused on the Miami Heat, were watching, gulping down Advil and wondering if they're about to play road kill to that shiny new truck from the Sooner State "Thundering" down the road.

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