Now that Kevin Durant is back, the Thunder have returned to a familiar place.
Oklahoma City beat San Antonio in six games to advance to the Western Conference finals for the fourth time in six years — and the fourth time in the past five seasons that Durant has been healthy.
San Antonio was expected to advance, especially after going 40-1 at home during the regular season to claim the No. 2 seed in the West. But the third-seeded Thunder won twice in San Antonio during the series, boosting their confidence heading into Game 1 against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Monday night in Oakland.
Durant is still chasing his first NBA title, so he was able to put the Spurs series in its proper perspective.
"This wasn't our championship," Durant said after Thursday night's clincher. "We were confident coming in here. We're just happy that we're moving forward and have an opportunity to play again, and we're excited about it."
Durant is especially excited, considering where he was a year ago at this time. He followed his 2013-14 MVP season by missing most of last season with broken bone in his right foot. The Thunder missed the playoffs, and Durant watched as Golden State's Stephen Curry won the MVP award and an NBA title.
This season, Curry won the scoring title and another MVP award, while Durant bounced back to finish fifth in the MVP balloting.
If anyone can handle a shootout with Curry, it's Durant. The four-time scoring champion struggled with his shot in the first-round series against Dallas but looked like himself against San Antonio. He averaged 28.5 points on 50 percent shooting in the series against the Spurs, scoring 41 points in Game 4 and 37 in Game 6.
The Warriors won a record 73 games in the regular season, but Durant made it clear the Thunder like where they stand after beating the Spurs, who posted one of the best regular seasons in NBA history. The Thunder lost Game 1 at San Antonio 124-92, but rallied to win four of the next five games.
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