After taking a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals, it seemed all but guaranteed that the Oklahoma City Thunder would advance to the NBA Finals. The Warriors were failing horribly against the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and it appeared as though the Thunder finally had the team they envisioned after trading away James Harden a few seasons prior.
Then, the Warriors got to work.
There was a sense of desperation for Golden State heading into Game 5, an emotion that likely hasn’t been felt by the 73-win squad in a long time. Warrior’s coach Steve Kerr wanted to get the energy in Oracle Arena pumping early, encouraging fans to come early and make plenty of noise. The Warriors were hot most of the game, and though the Thunder were able to grab a lead after a Westbrook 3-pointer with 6:06 remaining in the third quarter, Golden State was able to roar back for a decisive 120-111 victory.
For the Thunder, Game 6 was supposed to be their time to shine. They could afford to drop a game in Oakland, but coming back home, they were supposed to seal the deal. Things looked good for the Thunder throughout much of the game; they outscored the Warriors in the first three quarters and went into the fourth with an 83-75 lead. The finish line was right in front of them, and they tripped over their own feet. Actually, saying they tripped over their feet doesn’t do justice to the gravity of the situation. They were 15 minutes and an 8-point lead away from a ticket to the NBA Finals, playing in front of their home crowd, and they absolutely imploded. It’s a shame nobody in the audience knew how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, because the Thunder, specifically Russell Westbrook, were putting on an absolute choke job. Klay Thompson scored more points (19) than the entire Thunder roster (18) in the fourth quarter.
So, after a game like that, what are we in for tonight? Well, the general consensus is that it will be a closely contested game that will be replayed on NBA Hardwood Classics for years to come. It’s Memorial Day, everyone will be watching, and there is huge names on both teams. It has all the makings of an instant classic, but for some reason, I’m not so sure about that. The Warriors have only lost twice at home all season, and in a game like this with so much on the line, it’s very hard to see them faltering.
Obviously, the Thunder have proven that they are capable of beating the Warriors on their home floor, but this game is a whole new animal. Game 1 was the beginning of a feeling-out process. The Thunder didn’t carry much pressure at all going into that game, and that attitude carried all the way through to their 3-1 lead in the series. After losing game 5, they at least had a home game to look forward to, but now, there is no room for error.
It’s easy to make a statistical argument for why the Thunder could win this game. The combination of Durant and Westbrook certainly has the potential to outscore Curry and Thompson, and if Steven Adams can grab anywhere around his usual 10 rebounds, they could be in decent shape. That being said, when I say there is no room for error for the Thunder, there is literally no room. At all. If Curry gets hot and gets the crowd going, good luck. Once they get a double-digit lead, they become an invincible machine with no off-switch. Perhaps the scariest thing for the Thunder, however, is that Klay Thompson is just as equally capable of going on a hot streak from downtown as Curry; the Thunder learned that the hard way Saturday night. The only way the Thunder win this game is if they get off to a hot start and never look back. Chances of that are slim, however, and I’m only giving them an outside shot at winning this game. The way in which they lost the previous two games does not bode well for them playing on the road, and I expect the Warriors to pounce.
Curry 32, Thompson 27
Durant 25, Westbrook 34.
Westbrook will be fueled by his mistakes in the final minutes of Game 6, but the supporting cast around him and Durant won’t be able to produce. Adams and Ibaka will both finish with 8-10 points, and the rest of the team will fail to reach double digits.