By: Brandon Stiehler, The Burgh Blog Writer
Well tonight is the night every basketball fan has been waiting for. This is the start of the series where the Golden State Warriors may finally be tested. But this match-up isn’t exactly what everyone expected. After a stunning upset in just six games against the Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be taking on a very tough task.
The Warriors are coming off of a fairly easy series against the Portland Trailblazers, who played the first three games without the league MVP Steph Curry. For most of the series, the Warriors didn’t seem to be having much trouble. And the only trouble they saw in game four was quickly eliminated when Curry dropped 17 points in just five minutes of overtime play to get them the win.
But this series is more about the Thunder than it is the Warriors. We all know how great Golden State is and even if they manage to lose this series, they will be remembered as one of the greatest teams the game has ever seen. The Thunder on the other hand are just trying to find their grove, with the threat of Kevin Durant leaving the team this summer being a great possibility.
There’s no arguing that the Thunder have two of the top five or six players in the world with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but for some reason, they seem to disappear when it comes to leading the Thunder successfully through the playoffs.
Whatever the problem is, they need to find a solution fast. If Westbrook wants to stay with OKC, he needs to have the series of his life in order to keep Durant around. I don’t really see any scenario where the Thunder don’t make it to the finals in the next two years and those two are still on that team together. And they shouldn’t stay, because they always do their part. Russell Westbrook is one of the most powerful and explosive players the game has seen in some time, and Durant can change the complexion of a game in a matter of minutes. If I had to guess, a series win against these record setting Warriors would mean that OKC’s duo would be around to stay for some time. Apart from their finals match-up against the Cavaliers a few years back, this will probably the biggest playoff series of their lives.
I expect OKC to keep this series close and even make a push to knocking off the 73 win Warriors. It certainly won’t be easy, but if they can play better on the defensive side of the ball, this could even be the best series of the whole playoffs including the potential Warriors/Cavs series in the Finals. I’m going to be very bold here, but that series the Thunder played against the San Antonio Spurs was one of the bigger surprises I’ve seen in this NBA season. My prediction is that this series is going to be THE series to watch this week, and something tells me the Thunder will be able to pull this off in 7 games.