This is not exactly how the narrative was supposed to go if you are a Warriors fan or any of the analysts on NBA TV or ESPN. The Oklahoma City Thunder came into the NBA Western Conference Finals, with all of the talk about Kevin Durant possibly leaving in the offseason, Russell Westbrook possibly leaving after next season, & the team choking away leads & potential wins at the end of games – put all of that aside and defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals on Monday night.
It was an even game all the way through, but OKC did something they normally haven’t done through the season & at points during the playoffs – they came back from behind and played incredible defense against one of the games greatest offensive teams and the new NBA MVP in Stephen Curry. What made the victory even more interesting is the fact that Westbrook & Durant took a beating on the court – Westbrook in various different collisions with Klay Thompson & other times where the Warriors made sure that Westbrook got a bit roughed up just to slow down that explosiveness that he can bring on the fastbreak.
Durant was a bit less effective, as at one point in the second half, he missed 7 straight shots before hitting clutch shots at the end of the game. The Warriors did a great job on defending Durant & making him frustrated for most of the game, but that is when Westbrook showed his value & really took over the game late. An area where Westbrook was strong was playing excellent defense on Steph Curry, especially in the second half. Curry & Draymond Green struggled big time in the 4th quarter from three-point range, with most of that frustration coming from the great defense played by Westbrook, Durant & Serge Ibaka.
Even though it was an impressive win for the Thunder, this is going to be a long, tough series. We do predict that Golden State will win it & get to the NBA Finals, but seeing this series go seven games would not be surprising in the least. The Thunder will not keep the Warriors under wraps for 4 games in terms of keeping the Warriors offense down. They play fast basketball. They make threes. Oklahoma City plays a similar style of game & could get the Warriors out of their rhythm due to the fact that they have a lot of big bodies they can throw at GSW throughout the game with Enes Kanter, Steven Adams & Ibaka.
For the Warriors to win game 2, they will have to continue to frustrate Westbrook & Durant. Having Green on Durant exclusively is going to make that possible. Green can defend multiple positions & can help out on the weak side to stop Westbrook from going to the basket at will. Curry is one of the greatest shooters of all time & Klay Thompson is outstanding as well, but they are not great defenders by any stretch. If Westbrook is going to be left one-on-one with Curry defending him, Russ might go for 40-45 points & Durant being the recipient of the extra attention & rotations that GSW will have to make to contain him.
No matter what happens, this is going to be the most important game of the series right now for momentum. If the Warriors go down 2-0, then the entire complexion of the playoffs will completely change & the talk of the Cavs playing the Warriors in the NBA Finals becomes fans’ new wet dream, especially with the idea of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving & Kevin Love going against Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook.
But, we still have a lot of basketball to play & must get through Wednesday.