The reckoning is here. But first, let’s get this out of the way: The Oklahoma City Thunder did not choke away their Western Conference Finals series away to the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder simply lost to a better team this year.
The Warriors had to go the distance of just about every minute of the seven-game series to show they remain the class of the Western Conference. They barely made it out of that seven-game tussle with all of their faculties intact.
Going down to the last 1:40 in the fourth quarter in Game 7, to finally put down Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the OKC basketball team, shows us that the Warriors are not light years ahead of the rest of the NBA as suggested by team owner Joe Lacob in an article that was featured in New York Times Magazine.
Let’s stop that foolishness right now. The Warriors have had a great two-year run. That’s it. Yeah, Golden State broke the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls’ regular season record with 73 wins in a season, but are we to forget that the Warriors have only recorded six seasons in the last 20 years of having a better win-loss record?
In the last four years, the Warriors have made the playoffs and raided the NBA Finals twice. This could either be a great abbreviated moment in Golden State’s team history or the start of a dominant run of Finals appearances levied only by the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and even the San Antonio Spurs.
I don’t see that happening because the league is too even. Eventually the numbers are going to catch up with Golden State. They haven’t so far, but that’s just the way the law of averages work.
That wasn’t analytics that kept the Thunder from running off into the sunset to this year’s NBA Finals. That was Klay Thompson making 11 ridiculous 3-point shots on his way to 41 points to help the Warriors steal Game 6. That was Steph Curry, the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player doing work in Game 7 to finally suppress the determined and overlooked OKC squad.
A great run in a short time span does not equate into a dynasty. Dynasties are not put together like overnight sensations. They are built to last. The Warriors are today’s NBA darlings, but how long will this honeymoon last?
How long will it be before another pretty face comes along in the form of a young and exciting team and takes away the spotlight from the Warriors when things bottom out for Golden State?
There is always going to be someone prettier for you to look at. There is always going to be someone stronger and faster than you are, and will do things that will simply blow your mind in wonderment. Didn’t we see this same picture before with OKC when Durant, Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka came on the scene years back?
Remember when the Thunder was the “it” team, much like the way Golden State is today? It seems like it was just yesterday when Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka were the cute and cuddly players the media fawned all over. Today, it’s the “Splash Brothers” people are gushing about.
They should. The Warriors are a fun team to watch.
But unless the Warriors win five championships in a row, Lacob’s remarks are just plain ignorant. So Golden State’s master plan to success is superior to what the Celtics used to win their 17 NBA championships, is more thought out than the Lakers’ 16 titles roadmap, and better incorporated than the Spurs’ operation to pick up five rings?
Yeah, okay. Time will tell.
In the meantime, the Thunder gave the rest of the league the blueprint on how to be competitive and beat the Warriors: length, superior athleticism, speed, rebounding, running Golden State’s 3-point assassins off the three-point line, and putting just as much offensive pressure on them as they do on you.
From the look of it, OKC just may be the Warriors’ chief competitor to reign supreme in the West for years to come, although the Los Angeles Clippers may have something to say about this. But for now, the Warriors received a stern warning from the Thunder: don’t get too far of yourself.
The Warriors knows this to be fact rather than fiction. After seeing OKC take the Warriors to the brink of elimination, everyone else knows it as well. The Warriors have had a great two-year run, winning the NBA championship last year, and making it back to the Finals this season to go do the two-step again with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
During this two-year stretch run, OKC is the first team the Warriors have played that mirror them in age and has been fully healthy. Last year, the Warriors went up against teams that didn’t have their starting point guard the entire playoff series: Memphis, Houston, Cleveland (New Orleans don’t count).
This is the first time the Warriors have played the Thunder in a playoff series since the 1991-1992 season when OKC was officially known as the Seattle Supersonics. That means NBA fans have been denied the opportunity to see the two best shooters (Curry and Thompson) in the game square off against the two of the most unstoppable forces in the NBA (Durant and Westbrook), go toe-to-toe in the playoffs.
This was a matchup that the league needed. Although, Golden State may not want to see OKC again in the postseason, the NBA and its fans want more of this. The Warriors are the league’s new toy that everyone wants to play with. Even with two superstars in Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder became afterthoughts the last two seasons.
Durant played just 27 games during the 2014-2015 NBA season. It’s no coincidence that OKC missed the playoffs. When you snooze, you lose. OKC won 55 games during the regular season, but that didn’t earn them any brownie points. That meant their record was only good enough for third place in the Wild, Wild, Wild Western Conference.
OKC didn’t play like a third-place team against the Warriors. The Thunder served noticed that you can’t sleep on them. The Warriors got the memo just in time.