A split in Oakland might have been the best case scenario for the Thunder as the series began on Monday night. With many people having already crowned the Warriors as the back-to-back champions, having OKC go into Oracle and jump into an 1-0 series lead has potentially tilted this entire match-up on its head, although the Warriors quickly righted when the Warriors rain down threes and stifled every Thunder player not named Kevin Durant.
That said, Game 1 wasn't exactly a great outing for either team and there will certainly be nights where it seems like Golden State makes any and every shot they toss in the basket's general direction. Game 2 was blown open by a barrage of Stephen Curry threes and lost focus on OKC's behalf. This is going to be a long, hard-fought, grueling series and while that's what we crave as basketball fans at this time of the year it's going to make every missed shot or turnover seem even bigger than it is at the time.
It seems unfair that we have to wait for another clash of the Titans until Sunday, but I believe that the Basketball Gods have saw to it that just about every game in this series will be deciding in the closing minutes.
05/22 VS Warriors Game 3
FORECAST: Tornado Warning
This game is going to be crazy. Like February 27, 2016 crazy. With the series tied at 1-1 this is a game that both teams will see as a must win. Getting a 2-1 lead keeps spirits high in OKC and makes this stretch of play dating back to Game 2 in the conference semifinals some of the best basketball the Thunder have played as a franchise.
Golden State reclaiming a 2-1 lead will right the ship and convince most of the media that they are back on track to reclaim their second NBA title.
Steph Curry's 38-foot dagger will loom large over this game, but I think we get late game heroics from Durant or Westbrook this time around.
PREDICTION: Thunder 111, Warriors 110
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Rebounds
The Thunder's advantage is clearly their size and ability on the offensive and defensive glass. Russell Westbrook might be the greatest rebounding point guard ever. Enes Kanter and Steven Adams clean the glass more efficiently than Manhattan window washers. And Kevin Durant grabs nearly 10 rebounds just by showing up to the arena. OKC needs to out-rebound the Warriors every game. The Thunder aren't as great of a shooting team as Golden State so giving themselves extra chances while denying the Warriors second shots when they do miss is huge.
05/24 VS Warriors Game 4
FORECAST: Cloudy With Rare Occurrences of Sunshine
After my jubilation subsided in the post game of Game 1, I immediately knew that Golden State would win a game in OKC. The Thunder have let much lesser teams come into Chesapeake Arena and leave with as the victors and there's the absurd stat that Golden State has only lost nine total road games the entire 2015-16 season.
This Thunder 2.0 team that we've seen OKC evolve into in the playoffs is probably the best the Thunder have looked since 2013. If any team can stonewall the Warriors twice at home it's this group.
However, that is very unlikely. Golden State will tweak and adjust until it finds the right mismatches and then feasts upon them until the Thunder are forced to turn back into the inconsistent team they were for stretches of the regular season.
PREDICTION: Thunder 115, Warriors 120
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Bench
Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters have been godsends so far this postseason. Both only 24 years old and experiencing playoff basketball for the first time, they have found themselves in the roles that the Thunder and Billy Donovan have groomed them for. Waiters looks less anxious on the floor with the ball in his hands and defensively he has shown the strength and smarts to defend some of the league's best players for periods during the game to give Andre Roberson/Durant/Westbrook breaks. Enes Kanter should have been the Sixth Man of The Year, but moving past that his ability on offense combined with his rebounding prowess make him infinitely valuable to the team. Kanter has become a moderate defender and that has been good enough to keep him on the court late in close games where his scoring and rebounding help give the Thunder an edge on any opponent.
05/26 AT Warriors Game 5
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy With a High of 32
This is where things could get ugly. The pivotal Game 5 is always a must win in a seven game series. The Thunder were able to go into San Antonio and take it from the Spurs last round, but doing it again against the defending champs and owners of the best regular season of all time is a daunting task.
Golden State will be coming home and their fans will be looking for even the slightest reasons to break into applause and cheers for their beloved Warriors.
In my heart of hearts I hope that the combined 17/51 night we got in Game 1 is the worst shooting we see from the Russ and KD tandem, yet there is still a possibility it could be worse. And in this scenario that is exactly what dooms OKC.
PREDICTION: Thunder 99, Warriors 116
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Billy Donovan
The long running narrative that Billy Donovan hasn't improved upon much from the Scott Brooks days is just flat wrong. Is the offense drastically different under Donovan than Brooks? No. Is the defense drastically better under Donovan than Brooks? No. Are KD and Russ still isolation heavy players? Yes. However, it's between the ears where the true difference between the former Thunder coach and the man running the team now most clearly exists. Brooks was seen as reluctant and stubborn to a point in terms of making adjustments and changes. Often conceding only when it was too late. Donovan is always thinking and constantly tinkering with lineups and rotations to get the most out of the Thunder. Playing two bigs in crunch time, going immediately to a shorter rotation against Golden State, playing KD and Westbrook longer minutes. Those were all just in-game adjustments from the first game. As the series goes on, it will be interesting to see what other tweaks and tricks Donovan rolls out.
05/28 VS Warriors Game 6
FORECAST: Sunny With Temperatures in The 80's
The Peake will be packed and that energy will flow not only throughout the arena, but onto the court in OKC as well.
Expect another 40 point performance from Durant. Expect another Westbrook triple double. Expect Dion Waiters clutch threes. Expect Steven Adams lobs and rim destructions. Expect Serge Ibaka thumb down celebrations.
Expect to see the best of OKC because that is exactly what this game in this setting will bring out of the Thunder.
PREDICTION: Thunder 128, Warriors 122
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook
In a cruel twist, this perfection could ultimately be the final time these two superstars share the floor as teammates. As unlikely as that might seem right now, nothing short of a championship is a guarantee that Durant will re-up with the team in July. These two have share eight years together and have developed a brand and a culture for a franchise and city that will be remembered always. My belief is that at the least KD signs a 1 + 1 deal a la LeBron James, but if this game does signify the end for one of the greatest partnerships in NBA history it's only right that they go out guns blazing.
05/30 AT Warriors Game 7
FORECAST: Overcast With Gale Force Winds
This one is going to hurt. In fact, even trying to map out how this game happens is making me sad. So with that said I won't dwell on this long. This game is going to be everything we thought we would get when these two teams advanced to the Western Conference Finals. Threes, dunks, stars, etc. you name it and it will most likely happen in this Game 7 bout between these two. It really pains me to write this, but I see the year ending with the worst possible scenario - a buzzer-beating three from Draymond Green.
PREDICTION: Thunder 134, Warriors 137
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: 2016-17 NBA Season
This year has been fun, sad, entertaining, depressing, glorious, frustrating and so much more. In the end we got to see the best of this team when it mattered the most. However, with every ending is a new beginning. The experience that the youth of this roster will have taken a part of will go a very long way in the future. As I said above I 100% believe Durant will be back on this team and in his second season Donovan will have this team running like clockwork. Add in the development of Cameron Payne and (fingers crossed) the addition of Alex Abrines and the Thunder could see themselves on top of the NBA when all is said and done in 2017.