By: Brandon Blake
I am going to switch gears a little bit and try to talk a little bit about the NBA Playoffs. The Conference finals are upon us and I wanted to write a preview of my thoughts on the Western and Eastern Conference Finals and who I think which teams will win. Here is my preview of the Western Conference Finals.
Golden State vs Oklahoma City
Game 1: May 16th at 9pm
Game 2: May 18th at 9pm
Game 3: May 22nd at 8pm
Game 4: May 24th at 9pm
*Game 5: May 26th at 9pm
*Game 6: May 28th at 9pm
*Game 7: May 30th at 9pm
*- If necessary
For all the talk about a potential Golden State/San Antonio Western Conference Finals, I think we may have an even better match-up with Golden State and Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder have two of the top ten players in the NBA in their starting five with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and when they both play at a high level, OKC can beat anyone on any given night. In their last series against the Spurs, it was the combination of Durant and Westbrook and also big contributions from Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters that propelled the Thunder to a convincing 4-2 series win over the 67-win Spurs. The Thunder do have the second most efficient offense in the NBA at 113 points per 100 possessions and are clearly capable of going toe-to-toe with Golden State on offense. But Oklahoma City’s issues are on the defensive side of the ball as they are ranked 13th in the NBA in defensive efficiency and while they are a good rebounding team, they struggle to keep opponents out of the paint as the Thunder give up 43 points in the paint per 100 possessions and struggle when it comes to transition defense as well. For the Thunder to win the series, they have to elevate their defense and play better on that side of the ball while Durant and Westbrook continue to play at a high level and must also get good performances from the supporting cast of Adams and the Thunder bench.
Golden State has played excellent basketball in the regular season and so far in the postseason. That fourth quarter and overtime performance from reigning MVP Stephen Curry in Game 4 against Portland will be a game everyone will be talking about for years to come. Curry has elevated his game this season and he has not had to do this alone. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala has propelled the Warriors thru a record breaking 73-win regular season and through the first two rounds of the playoffs. For all of the talk about the Warriors offense, ball movement, player movement and a killer pick-and-roll offense, their defense is equally as excellent as their offense. The Warriors give up the fourth fewest points per 100 possessions in the NBA and are second in the league in defensive field goal percentage. The Warriors do struggle on the defensive glass but in almost every other category, the Warriors are excellent.
I think I’m stating the obvious when I say this series is going to be appointment TV. Oklahoma City has a very good chance to defeat Golden State because the Durant and Westbrook can challenge the excellent defense of Golden State. And if the supporting cast of the Thunder come to play like they did in eliminating the Spurs in the last round, then the Warriors will be in some trouble. However, I think the Warriors are a consistent and more complete team than OKC. I think the Warriors defense is good enough to limit Durant and Westbrook and the Warriors offense led by Curry will carry them the rest of the way and into the NBA Finals for a second straight season.
Prediction: Warriors in six game.
On Monday: The Eastern Conference Finals Preview.