Western Conference Finals Preview

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Well we were actually thrown for a loop in the playoffs. Many expected the Western Conference Finals to be between the Spurs and Warriors. The entire season seemed like a two man race between the two, and the Thunder decided to screw things up for everyone. Now, we have a lot more star power in the Western Conference Finals than we originally expected. The Thunder just took down the 2nd best team of the year and now have the tall task of bringing down the record breaking Warriors.

The Warriors won the season series 3-0, and each of these games were decided in the 4th quarter. The main star of each has been Steph Curry. In game one, he was responsible for 50 total points with 26 points and 10 assists. In game two he finished with 46 points in the overtime victory, throwing up a half court shot for the win, and hit 12 3-pointers in the process. In game 3 he scored more points than the entire OKC team in the final 4:30 of the game and ended up with 33 points by the end of it. Curry has been destroying the Thunder at every chance. A lot of this has to do with the man guarding him. Westbrook has been the primary defender in the 3 games and seems to not mind Curry destroying his team. Here he totally loses track of where Curry is during an overtime. Stuff like this will kill the OKC team at having any chance of winning.

Here Westbrook makes it incredibly easy on Curry totally taking his attention away from him and allowing a back cut.

The Thunder switch on most screens and Steven Adams was on top of it, pressuring Steph with a lot of help around him, and Westbrook totally leaves Bogut to take off to the rim by going after Steph who is already being covered and pressured. If Westbrook stays with Bogut, this play does not happen and he definitely has the ability to make up the distance on these plays.

All of these things make it easy on Curry, and if Curry has an easy time impacting the game, then the Thunder will be swept in an embarrassing  fashion. He is the best player in the league, and has had the most efficient scoring season we have seen in history. That is the reality of all of this and if Westbrook is going to continue to be the main defender, this type of play is unacceptable.

The key to victory for the Thunder is Westbrook, and that applies to both sides of the ball. Westbrook averaged 25 points a game against the Warriors, but that has come at an awful price. He is shooting 34.7% from the field against the Warriors. Kevin Durant has dismantled the Warriors defense every game this season and averaging 36 points a game. The Thunder are so dependant on both of their stars playing well, and history has said KD is ready for the test and Westbrook needs to join him in elite play to have a chance. Westbrook also needs to relax with the 3s. He has shot 3-18 on 3 pointers against the Warriors going 1-8 and 0-6 from 3. Westbrook is a 29.6%3pt shooter, so he should really be taking only 2 attempts a game at most. Shooting eight or six in a game is hurting the team, especially against a fast paced team where long rebounds become quick and easy points for the other side.

Another factor that the Thunder need to dominate is rebounds. They have done that within the 3 games by winning the rebound battle by as much as 30 in one of the games. This is important to success for them getting the Warriors out of flow and being able to run the floor. Dominating the boards is a way to slow down the Warriors.

I have little faith in the Thunder being able to pull this series out, nor do I have faith in Westbrook playing okay defense. The Warriors are a well oiled machine on the path to greatness, and I see them passing over the Thunder in 5 very hard fought games. These games will all be close, but the Thunder who have failed to close games all year long will continue to do so.

 

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