NBA Western Conference Finals Preview — Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors
All season long, we have been told to anticipate a Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs Western Conference Finals. Well, that’s not happening. After all the buildup and all the “what ifs,” there will be no epic Warriors-Spurs showdown. The Oklahoma City Thunder shocked the Spurs, knocking San Antonio out of the playoffs. The Thunder outplayed, out-hustled, and used all of their strengths to eliminate the Spurs.
The Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder will be a Western Conference Finals for the ages. The Warriors are seeking their second straight NBA Finals appearance. They haven’t made it to the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons since 1946-47 and 1947-48. On the other hand, the Thunder are making their fourth conference finals appearance in six seasons.
Sure, the Warriors have the reigning two-time MVP in Steph Curry, but the Thunder have two of the top 5 players in the game on their team. Although the Warriors won all three regular season matchups, all the games were close and could have gone either way. For all of the talk about the Warriors having luck on their way to a championship last season, the Thunder could be the Warriors biggest playoff test to date.
The Thunder Present New Challenges For The Warriors
The Thunder are peaking at the right time. Westbrook and Durrant are scoring at will. Kanter and Adams are grabbing offensive rebounds and boxing out, pretty much on every possession.
Enes Kanter provides the Thunder with a monstrous weapon on the block and on the boards. For the Warriors to advance to their second straight finals, they will need to have a contribution from Bogut and Ezeli. The Thunders’ best chance at winning the series is not trying to match Golden State three for three.
The Thunder paired Kanter with Steven Adams to great effect against San Antonio, dominating the glass and generating tons of second chances. The Thunder are completely healthy in the playoffs for the first since time since going to the NBA Finals in 2012 and have the tools to push and test the Warriors.
The Warriors Will Be Ready and Rested
The Warriors need Steph Curry to stay healthy if they want to win this series. Curry’s stamina will be tested in this series. The MVP never stops moving on offense, darting around screens and drifting into space whenever his defender blinks. Steph will be asked to keep up with the league’s most athletic point guard in Russell Westbrook. Shawn Livingston will also need to be ready to contribute both offensively and defensively.
Klay Thompson has been doing a phenomenal job in Steph’s absence. Thompson will split time defensively on OKC’s 1-2 punch of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Klay will need to channel his best Khawi Leonard and be ready to be a two-way player.
Draymond Green will have to play a lot more in the post. Draymond will be needed to help keep Kanter and Adams off the boards. If the Warriors slot Draymond Green at center, this could cause matchup problems for the Thunder. Draymond’s athleticism could cause Kanter to be in foul trouble throughout the series.
The big key advantage the Warriors have is their depth. Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala will give the Thunder matchup nightmares. If Golden State is fully engaged and utilizes its most potent lineups, it’s hard to see Oklahoma City surviving this series.
The Thunder are a great team but the Warriors are a complete and deeper team.
(NBA Western Conference Finals Preview)