All of a sudden, one has to at least begin to wonder whether the Oklahoma City Thunder can improbably win the Western Conference. After beating the San Antonio Spurs twice on the road, the Thunder stole Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals from the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. What’s disconcerting for the Warriors is that the Thunder managed to pull the game out despite Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combining to shoot just 17-for-51 from the field. Dion Waiters continued his strong play off the bench while Steven Adams turned in a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double.
For the Warriors, Game 1 was mostly about offensive ineptitude. They shot 11-for-30 from the three-point line, had some costly turnovers and were undisciplined on the offensive side of the ball when the game was in the balance.
Last season, en route to winning the 2015 NBA Finals, the Warriors trailed 2-1 on two separate occasions, including in the NBA Finals. Heading into Game 4 in Cleveland, everyone knew that it was a “must win” for the club, and they responded. One should expect the Warriors—a team that has been there before—to approach Game 2 with that same type of passion and zeal. The prospect of heading to Oklahoma City down 0-2 is one that any team with championship aspirations would want to avoid.
In Game 2, one would expect Durant and Westbrook to fare a tad better from the field, so the Warriors will need to convert closer to 50 percent from the field and certainly from behind the three-point line. Meanwhile, Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli combined for just three points in 24 minutes of action, and that doesn’t seem a recipe for success. With Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter enjoying a decisive size advantage over the Warriors, it stands to reason that Bogut and Ezeli will need to be a bit more impactful.
The Warriors are defending champions and they are coming off of a record-breaking 73-win season. Although they won their season series over the Thunder 3-0, the Thunder seemed to outplay them in two of those contests, so Durant and company are entering this series with a ton of confidence. One could make the argument that the Warriors haven’t had to deal with three big men as nimble and agile as Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter, so we may be in unchartered territory. Still, the Warriors have proven to have heart and a brilliant head coach, so it still seems unwise to bet against them in their own gym.
While we are fairly comfortable predicting that the Warriors shoot more accurately and take better care of the basketball in Game 2, by now, the Thunder should have convinced everyone that they are a serious threat to win the championship. Based on what we saw in Game 1, Durant, Westbrook and the rest of their troops haven’t come this far to only come this far.
Game 2 takes place on Wednesday night.
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