Riding high into their first Western Conference final since 2012, Oklahoma City has plenty of momentum and confidence as they attempt to knock off Golden State’s attempts at back-to-back champions – but… can they do it again?
It certainly has the potential of a playoff classic, if the regular season battles between these two are any indication.
While the Thunder defied the odds – and many of the experts – in their six-game series against San Antonio, they are considered slight underdogs yet again in what should be a highly-competitive, high-scoring affair for the right to play in the Finals.
For the Warriors, the defending champions know their pursuit of history and their record-breaking season means nothing if they don’t win their second straight NBA title, and if the regular season is any indicator, Golden State knows they have the ability to beat OKC when it matters most. GSW trailed, or was tied, heading into the final 12 minutes in each of their three wins, so you have to trust they won’t get rattled if they’re trailing at any point in the series.
This matchup features the last three MVPs (Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant), six of the last seven scoring champs (Curry, Durant and Russell Westbrook), and five 2016 All-Star selections (Curry, Klay Thompson for GSW, and Durant and Westbrook for OKC). Star-studded indeed, and believe me, TNT – who’s televising the West series – wants nothing less than seven rocking games.
Both lineups present problems for the other, especially when the Warriors go small, and when the Thunder elects to pound it inside to their imposing frontline of Enes Kanter and Stephen Adams. But we all know that this series’ outcome will be determine by which superstar tandem is the most effective.
One thing to keep in mind, the Warriors have yet to lose consecutive games ALL SEASON LONG, an impressive stat that tells me they are able to cast aside any setback (barring another problem with Curry’s knee) they may encounter during this series. Oklahoma City has the offensive firepower with Durant and Westbrook to stay with Warriors, but Green’s X-factor element and GSW’s balance and bench holds a decided edge over the Thunder. We certainly know what KD and Russ can do in big-game situations, but will the rest of their teammates rise again on a big stage?
This same stage applies to the head coaches as well. Steve Kerr isn’t the reigning Coach of the Year for nothing, and in NBA circles, he’s been here before as a player and a bench tactician. On the other side, this is the first time for the Thunder’s Billy Donovan, and while he’s no slouch, this isn’t Florida and a run to the NCAAs, and he’s still without the assistance of his top assistant, Monty Williams, who stepped away from the team following the tragic death of his wife.
My prediction? Dub Nation wins the series in six games, because we know they can win a game in OKC. We don’t know if the Thunder can match that at Oracle.
Buckle up, it has the makings of a great one.