You’d call me insane if I said the Oklahoma City Thunder have a decent chance of beating the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals wouldn’t you? By the numbers, that statement may indeed be insane. Good thing the NBA is about matchups!..and this just so happens to be a bad matchup for the Warriors.
Golden State: (73-9)
- Points per game: 114.9 (1st)
- FG percentage: 48.7 percent (1st)
- 3-point percentage: 41.6 percent (1st)
- Free throw percentage: 76.3 percent (16th)
Oklahoma City: (55-27)
- Points per game: 110.2 (2nd)
- FG percentage: 47.6 percent (3rd)
- 3-point percentage: 34.9 percent (17th)
- Free throw percentage: 78.2 percent (10th)
Golden State is clearly the better shooting team, that’s without a doubt. Both teams are great scoring teams, though. Oklahoma City isn’t a great 3-point shooting team but their field goal shooting is great, third in the league actually. They will prosper when they pound the ball inside. That’s where the third highest field goal percentage comes from. The Thunder could also take advantage of Golden State’s sub-par offensive rebounding where they lead the league.
This is the series for Steven Adams and Enes Kanter to succeed. The series they should take control, and expose Golden State’s lackluster offensive rebounding. It’s about the only major advantage the Thunder have over the Warriors. They have to take advantage of that strength to win.
Defensively, both teams look about the same. The Thunder gave up fewer points all season, but the Warriors held opponents to 43.5 percent shooting, along with 33.2 percent from three, both of which are top three in the league.
To knock off the Warriors…
The Thunder will have to play nearly perfect. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Kind of sounds like the San Antonio series, so it can happen. They just need to change up the game-plan a tad bit. Stephen Curry can’t guard Russell Westbrook one-on-one due to Russell’s physicality and speed, he’ll primarily guard Andre Roberson, a player that typically doesn’t score a lot, only averaging 0.8 points in the San Antonio series. The Warriors may have someone to contain Kevin Durant, maybe Draymond, Thompson or Barnes. This takes me back to my original point. Who’s going to guard Kanter and Adams though? Bogut? That’s one person and I don’t think he can. They are both too young and active for Bogut at this point in his career. Harrison Barnes? Well, at 6-foot-8 he’ll most likely be on the wing. If he tries to venture into the paint, he’ll get grilled. Draymond could guard either a wing player or a post. Obviously not both. My point is if used correctly, Oklahoma City’s starting five could wear down Golden State’s starting five, starting in the paint.
Golden State’s bench is more effective, but like I said, Kanter should have a great series. He should average double-figures in points and possibly rebounds. Dion Waiters has been brilliant in the playoffs, he’s really stepped up to the plate. Expect more out of him, bringing a huge spark off the bench.
Yes, a lot of things need to fall in place for the Oklahoma City Thunder to win this series, but just like against San Antonio, it can be done. More Thunder reserves proved they can step up to the plate on a big stage, and so did head coach Bily Donovan. Defensively the Thunder underachieved this season, and they led the league in fourth quarter let-downs but have seemed to fix that through the majority of the playoffs. They’ve figured something out, and they are finally the team Oklahoma City fans expected to see all year long.
I have Oklahoma City winning in six, but if the series goes to seven games, with the seventh game in Golden State, this year is over for the Thunder.