The NBA’s Western Conference Finals have gone down as some of the best basketball in recent years and this year’s addition should be no different. With this series you are getting three of the top five MVP candidates on the same court for a seven game series.
In Golden State, you have the defending champions and the best regular season team ever assembled. The challenger is Oklahoma City, a team that everybody rated as more talented than GS before a Kevin Durant foot injury last season. Since Durant went down, Curry took over and Durant has been climbing up the ranks to get his spot back. This series will obviously be his big chance.
For the Thunder and Durant to get their spot back, it will take them over-powering Golden State with a big lineup that can control the post. What Billy Donovan did against the Spurs to switch things up was to go to a front court pairing of Enes Kanter and Steve Adams. Both typically would rotate in at center next to Serge Ibaka, but in an effort to matchup size with the Spurs, the Thunder went to their bigger bodies, and guys who will play in the paint on both sides of the floor.
The Warriors interestingly play an opposite style of what the Thunder will want to do and they will want to spread the floor, run and rely on open outside shots to win. It will be a tug of war of lineups and whoever can establish the pace with their lineup is going to have a major advantage.
Having Draymond Green is the difference here and he is a guy who can make the pace go to a way that the Warriors would like. He is so valuable because when the Thunder run lineups with Durant, Adams and Kanter, Green can watch any of them. The Warriors can match bodies on Durant due to Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes and either throw Andrew Bogut next to Green, or they can stick Green at center and try to run Oklahoma City to the point where only one of their main big men can be on the court at one time. Neither of the Thunder big men can step out on Green and if he is open and patrolling the perimeter bad things are always going to happen. When the Thunder run their lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Barnes and Green, the Thunder will have no answer when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, except to go to lineups that they are uncomfortable scoring in.
The Warriors are smart and will use the matchups to their advantage. Andre Roberson and Steven Adams will need to get big minutes, as those two are the team’s best defenders, but the Warriors will not respect either as a shooter. They will hide Steph Curry on Roberson at almost every stop, and either Green or Bogut are perfect matches for Adams. Those two are smart, and know when to play tight on Adams, but also know where he is limited. It gives them the ability to play in the paint, but also be on the look for tips and steals.
By forcing turnovers the Warriors will create transition opportunities and that will get the Warriors into the game that they want to play. If the Warriors are running, this one is probably over. They have too much chemistry, speed, and outside shooting that it will just be similar to the entire season.
However, if the Thunder are able to slow them down, and keep themselves in games this series will get very interesting. At the end of the day Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are two of the best players in the league, and if they are close in any game, who is to count these two out? The Thunder goal every game should be to hang around and have one of their super stars take over with about five minutes to go.
That all said, it is too hard to go against the Warriors here. The Spurs played to a style that kept the Thunder comfortable, but what the Warriors are best at is taking away your comfort lineup and forcing you into lineups that you would not want. It will be a great series, and by all expectations should go seven, but the odds are just not good enough to go against the best team ever and the Warriors should keep moving on.
Warriors in 7