It’s been fun going crazy for any Steven Adams news over the last couple of weeks but the time has come to bid farewell to our national NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, who will definitely lose Game 7 of the NBA’s Western Conference finals today.
This Oklahoma City Thunder season has been a hell of a ride. Designated the ‘also ran’ tag in the Western Conference before the season even started, they have along the way had to contend with the inevitable questions about the free agency decision of Kevin Durant, the adjustment to rookie coach Billy Donovan, and the tragic death of lead assistant Monty Williams’ wife and team owner Aubrey McClendon.
But once the postseason began they found another gear. They took care of Dallas, ran one of the best regular season teams, the 67-win Spurs, out of town, and have had two break points on the 73-win Golden State Warriors. A win in Game 7 would see them through to an NBA finals series against LeBron James’ Cavs, and they’d be just 4 wins away from their first franchise Championship since 1979 (when they were the Seattle SuperSonics).
But the Thunder won’t win Game 7. Here’s 7 reasons why:
1. When Steven Adams headed to the bench after picking up two quick fouls in Game 5 the Thunder’s paint presence disappeared, despite seldom-used wing Anthony Morrow deciding to drop 10 points in 7 minutes on 4-4 shooting. Even though Adams only committed one foul for the rest of the game the Warriors scored 48 points in the paint and won the rebound battle against the best rebounding team in the regular season. Adams has to stay on the floor and contest and show hard on the ball screens. The Thunder also have a terrible tendency to not communicate with the big when switched onto a playmaker/shot taker. Yes, the Thunder can match the Warriors ‘death’ line-up with their own but they also cause them problems with their length.
2. You can’t miss so many shots! Andre Iguodala is a great defender and was supreme at the end of Game 6. Russell Westbrook and Durant can have the volume of shots because they’re stars but going 1 for 13 combined from the perimeter is bad at home.
3. Execution. When the one player to make a field goal in the last 5 minutes of a potentially series-clinching game is Andre Roberson then the old cliché of Thunder ‘hero ball’ comes back to haunt them. During the regular season they lost a league-high 14 games in which they’d entered the fourth quarter holding a lead. OKC played right into the hands of the Warriors defence.
4. The arrogance which used to be misconstrued as confidence exhibited by the Warriors. It’s a fine line – one day you’re the darlings of the NBA and showing the way in a brave new era of space and pace, the next you kick a dude in the nuts and suddenly everything you do is seen as preening and whining. This doesn’t really help though.
5. Stopping Klay Thompson means conceding that Curry will Curry. He’s a little sore in the MCL and in the Thunder wins they really loaded up on him early in the possession. What it does though is open up the floor for Draymond Green whose plus/minus was so bad through the early losses in the series it was almost laughable. He’s over the nut job on Adams and they’re in the safe confines of home in an elimination game. Klay’s 11 threes were record-setting and on any other team would be amazing. For the Warriors it’s just one of the Splash Brothers connecting. Thompson has gone for 37 before. In a quarter. You probably couldn’t hit 11 threes with him in a game of NBA 2K16 on the PS4.
6. The Warriors and the Thunder both turn the ball over at a high rate but the Warriors have made the adjustments and the Thunder have only recently ratcheted up the pressure on the ball and in the passing lanes. Most notably, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said that they will try not to pass over the Thunder players because they are long. It’s worked. That’s coaching.
7. Last time I wrote on The Spinoff about the Warriors I told you to watch Golden State’s history-making 73-win game rather than Kobe’s last game as a Laker, which ended up being a much more enthralling (albeit kinda gross) watch. So go the Warriors, and if the Thunder win it’s because I typed this out on the internet where it will haunt me and my children and my children’s children forever.