After back-to-back drubbings at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, one has to wonder what’s up with the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The ‘Dubs set the NBA record this year by finishing the regular-season at 73-9, so no one expected them to experience postseason struggles to this extent where they’ve suffered two straight 20-point losses. The SiriusXM Sports team decided to debate the possible reasons for Golden State’s less-than-golden performance. Things might get heated…
Doric Sam: First, let’s give credit where it’s due. The Thunder are playing outstanding basketball at the moment. It’s one thing when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are dominating, but when OKC also gets double-digit scoring nights from Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson, Steven Adams and Dion Waiters, it’s damn-near impossible to stop the thunderstorm (pun-intended).
On to the Warriors. In chasing history, Golden State put everything into achieving 73 wins, and rightfully-so. When you have the chance to make history, you go for it. But they had to play at their highest level night in and night out, with none of their stars resting during the season. It’s possible that at this juncture these guys are exhausted, both physically and mentally. Their brand of run-and-gun, quick-shooting offense puts a lot of stress on their legs and it was clear that Stephen Curry had absolutely no lift in Tuesday’s Game 4. He was missing free throws and layups, for crying out loud! Add in the media attention generated by their historic run, and it just looks like they’re mentally-drained, playing in a fog and facing double-digit deficits in the first six minutes of the game.
Brian Lauvray: With all due respect to my colleague Doric and to the Warriors franchise, maybe the Thunder are simply Golden State’s Kryptonite? The Thunder, who seemingly figured “it” out halfway through their series with San Antonio, are being run by a version of Russell Westbrook that no one has ever seen before. Russ is playing with the conviction in self that is typically reserved for serial killers and cult leaders and his stats this series are bearing that out. Toss in the fact that through four games, Steve Kerr has not been able to find a solution to the ever-morphing OKC lineups and you’ve got a perfect storm to knock the Warriors out. I’m not convinced this series still won’t go at least six (I originally picked the Thunder in seven), and maybe we just have to give credit to the Thunder and worry a lot less about the Warriors and their precious “73-9” regular season.
DS: Good point; Billy “The Kid” Donovan has thoroughly out-coached Steve Kerr through the first four games. Russell Westbuckets has also been playing a brand of “smack-you-in-the-mouth” ball that has Curry looking like a kid who’d get picked last in a streetball game. You predicted the Thunder in seven, yes, but did you ever think they’d dominate like this? Did you think Draymond Green would end up being a detriment to his team? The ‘Dubs got smacked around in Game 3, came out in Game 4 and immediately got smacked around again. Why?
BL: I think there’s a lot working against the Warriors right now. For one, their “death lineup” is not nearly as effective against what the Thunder are running against it. Kevin Durant’s range and particularly the combo of his size and speed makes him a nightmare for even a dogged defender such as Green or an Andre Iguodala. In last year’s Finals, Iggy and Draymond effectively wore LeBron James out through six games because ‘Bron did not have Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love. Against Durant with Russ playing at this level and with OKC’s “other guys” playing so well and creating havoc for the Warriors on both ends of the court, there’s not much they can do.
I personally feel that too much is being made out of Steph’s “70%” healthy status. Russ has always been a bad matchup for #30 due to his superior athleticism, size and aggression. Steph Curry at 100% still struggles with Russ, toss in the fact that Russ has been eating broken glass for breakfast this series and, well, yeah, this kinda makes sense. We’re guilty of framing this series as “KD and Russ” versus the Warriors and maybe we gotta recognize that the Thunder, particularly with Serge Ibaka’s renaissance and Steven Adams’ development, have become not just a Big 2 but a team ready to impose its will on anyone up to and including the defending champs.
DS: Agreed. I just expected seven games of Ali-Frazier status between two heavyweight teams. Instead, we’re getting Ali-Liston 2 and the Thunder are standing over the Warriors yelling, “Get up and fight, sucka!”
Tags:andre iguodalaandre robersonbilly donovandion waitersdraymond greengolden state warriorskevin durantlebron jamesnbaoklahoma city thunderrussell westbrookserge ibakastephen currysteve kerrsteven adams
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