I know what you’re thinking, we don’t have to discuss it. Trust me, it’s gonna be okay and the San Antonio Spurs are gonna be fine. “But what about me and my viewing habits as a casual NBA fan? Will Oklahoma City even win a game,” you lament to the unseen basketball gods. Dear reader, have faith. We’re about to witness an even greater Western Conference final than the much-hyped San Antonio-Golden State showdown.
Oklahoma City’s devastating two-man attack is coming into full form and even the Golden State Warriors’ impressive defense (and those lightning-quick rotations of theirs) shall struggle to handle Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Yes, even after being swept by the ‘Dubs in the season series. In two of those three losses, the outcome wasn’t determined until well into the fourth quarter (or even overtime in the sole game played in OKC). The Thunder, who have been adapting to their new head coach Billy Donovan and the reintroduction of Russ and KD on the court at the same time all season long, finally seem to be clicking at the perfect time.
In their series against San Antonio, Oklahoma City played back a bit against the Spurs’ whirling-pass and motion-based offense and let their long limbs and freakish athleticism afford them a buffer to recuperate against any man-on-man lapses. Golden State is obviously more athletic than San Antonio, but Oklahoma City, particularly Russell Westbrook, can cause so much more chaos for the Warriors than either Portland or Houston was able to scrounge up in the first two playoff rounds. Westbrook (and Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson, thanks to their reach and ability to clog pass lanes… Stop smirking!) will force Stephen Curry to make more difficult decisions and shots than either James Harden, Patrick Beverly or Damian Lillard did. Theoretically, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka also should make life difficult for Golden State’s vaunted passing and shooting. If Curry, or Klay Thompson or Draymond Green or Harrison Barnes, et al. get behind OKC’s perimeter defenders, there still stands underrated behemoth/defender/’stache-enthusiast Steven Adams at the rim.
Am I predicting a miraculous and thorough domination of the defending NBA champs at the hands of the Thunder? Heck no! I am predicting a very competitive seven-game series. The Thunder are a star-driven franchise that also happens to have a California and Texas-sized chip on their collective shoulders after seeing injuries over the past few seasons and the Warriors/Spurs domination of the league (and headlines) fuel their “Us against the world” mentality. As crazy as it sounds to bet against the likes of a two-time defending NBA MVP (oh, and Klay Thompson), you’re just as nuts to bet against the 2013-14 MVP and his teammate, Russell Westbrook, who delivered a sterling turn as the team’s leader when Durant was gone for the majority of last season with a foot injury.
Oklahoma City and Golden State are impressive franchises who happen to have some of the league’s best and brightest stars on their rosters. While San Antonio versus Golden State would have had the #narrative every journalist was dreaming about this season, we’re possibly facing an even more entertaining series because of the Thunder’s dismissal of the Spurs last round.
My prediction? Oklahoma City Thunder in seven.
Buckle up, folks, the fun starts tonight at 9:00 ET and you can catch all the action on SiriusXM ESPN Radio (Ch. 80, Internet 900).
Tags:draymond greengolden state warriorskevin durantklay thompsonoklahoma city thunderrussell westbrookserge ibakastephen curry
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