Going into the Western Conference Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder have gained solid momentum, after most would say pulling an upset against the always consistent and tough Spurs. They were able to get it done behind three consecutive wins to end the series after the team was called into question at the end of game 1, where they were dismantled and simply outplayed by the San Antonio Spurs. Now going against the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors will be an even more challenging series for the Thunder. But they have the ability and the players to take them all the way to the NBA finals. Three of the factors that will play a significant role for OKC this series are, their superstar duo of Durant and Westbrook, their bigs (Adams and Kanter), and their ability or inability to end the game strong in the 4th quarter.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
The superstar duo of Durant and Westbrook can carry the Thunder to victory in this series against the Warriors. They have shown they can put up the points against a tough defensive opponent like the Spurs and they are going to need to show once more going up against an even stronger defensive team in the Warriors. Russell Westbrook being the enforcer with his aggressive and athletic style of play will play a huge part, as he will create space on the floor for his teammates and himself. Westbrook just needs to be smart when it comes to going so aggressive to hole as he on occasions finds himself guilty of turning the ball over. Especially with a team like the Warriors, who can make you pay for your mistakes instantly, Westbrook needs to take care of the ball. On the other hand, Kevin Durant needs to just be himself as well, shoot lights out and show that he can lead this team to the NBA finals.
With Andrew Bogut from the Warriors being hobbled by injury and called questionable for game 1 at least, the Thunder’s bigs will need to take advantage. Both Steven Adams and Enes Kanter have provided a spark from the center position, being able to out hustle opponents on the boards. If they can continue to do so and give extra possessions to the team while also contributing a small bit in the points category then, OKC will have a solid chance at victory throughout the series.
Strong 4th Quarter
Throughout the season, the Thunder have had their struggles closing out games in the 4th quarter and it is going to be incredibly important they do so versus the Warriors. Going off of the last series, OKC found their game during the 4th quarter and did not let up much in the final quarter of play. They need to carry that momentum into this series because if not, Golden State will be relentless with their seamless ball moving offense and proven shooters. The Thunder’s defense is going to be even more important because they will need to get stops against the MVP, Stephen Curry and the Warriors. No way that OKC will be able to totally stop Curry but if they can play physical defense and get him out of rhythm it will benefit them in the series. An X-factor for the Oklahoma City Thunder will be their role players and bench. Second-year player Andre Roberson showed an ability to contribute in the closing game of Spurs series, he can shoot the ball and put some points on the board. If they can get that type of production from a few of their role and bench players, they will bring the odds in their favor.