Is anyone else still trying to catch their breaths after the amazing Oklahoma City-Golden State series? I know I am. That was seven games of everything I had hoped and wished and dreamed for, and then some. We got to see two teams at the height of their primes duke it out for Western Conference supremacy, reminiscent of those Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings battles of the early-2000s.
That, to me, is what made this series even more exciting: the beginning of what could be a classic rivalry that we see for the next five to ten years. Granted, Kevin Durant would have to spur his impending free agency and re-sign with the Thunder long-term in order for this rivalry to happen, but I digress. The core players of both teams are in their mid-20s to go along with solid balances of veteran role players, meaning these two teams will be perennial contenders who’ll likely have lengthy postseason wars for years to come.
Think about how this series played out. You had the flash and finesse of the Warriors run into the smack-you-in-the-mouth style of the Thunder. Durant and Russell Westbrook weren’t impressed with Golden State’s 73 wins or Stephen Curry’s back-to-back MVPs and played like Honey Badgers, Westbrook and Durant didn’t give a s–t. Then the ‘Dubs started unraveling, suffering huge blowout losses and retaliating with groin-kicks. Oklahoma City went up 3-1 and many wrote off the defending champs (including a certain SiriusXM Sports editor who shall not be named).
The Warriors then showed they can smack you in the mouth, too, grinding out a win in Game 5 and then mounting an improbable comeback behind Klay Thompson’s magical record-setting 11 threes in Game 6. That comeback was so unreal that when we realized the basketball gods answered our prayers and granted us a seventh game of this series, it was like:
In the win-or-go-home game, both teams faced adversity and had to decide if they would fold. Golden State went down by double-digits in the second quarter but clawed back to whittle OKC’s halftime lead to six. The Warriors emptied the clip in the third quarter with a barrage of three-pointers, but the Thunder weathered the storm and shrunk a 15-point lead down to four with less than two minutes left in the final frame. Curry took the ball into his hands like an MVP should and drew a foul on a three-pointer and then knocked down this dagger:
That shot came with 26 seconds left and the Thunder choosing not to foul. Curry could’ve ran the clock down but hoisted that shot with absolutely no remorse, indicative of how there is no love lost between these teams.
After the game we got the customary #RealRecognizeReal moment:
But someone was inconspicuously absent:
Steven Adams and Draymond Green hug it out at the end of an epic series. Kevin Durant embraced several Warriors. Russell Westbrook did not.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 31, 2016
I dunno about you, but that excites the hell out of me. Westbrook’s attitude is reminiscent of the past era when competition drove players to legitimately hate each other. This is the same Westbrook who laughed at the notion that Curry is an underrated defender. For all the flack he gets for his wild style of play, a player like Westbrook, a player who really doesn’t give a s–t and is driven to completely destroy the current face of the NBA, is needed to make a rivalry truly special.
The Warriors and the Thunder have everything necessary to be the next great rivalry. Durant obviously would have to decide whether there are greener pastures out there in free agency, but the early speculation is that he’ll stay in OKC. This was won’t be like these regular-season duels we constantly see when nothing’s on the line. Golden State and Oklahoma City will battle when the stakes are at their highest, when the only options will be legend-status or the depths of social media hell. We have witnessed the dawn of something beautiful.
And for the hell of it, here’s the Crying Jordan you know you love.
Tags:golden state warriorskevin durantklay thompsonoklahoma city thunderrussell westbrookstephen curry
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