As Oklahoma City's remarkable post-season run continues, so too does Steven Adams' unexpected emergence. This Spring, the mustachioed mammoth has stood tall amongst a plethora of playoff giants. While Adams has energetically ripped rebounds and swatted shots, his team's confidence has risen to unprecedented heights. Riding this wave of momentum, Oklahoma City's stunned the league, while undauntedly staring 140-24 in the face.
It was presumed that NBA All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would elevate their play in the second-season, but that Steven Adams has done the same, if not even more, is shocking to most. The 22-year-old New Zealand native has raised eyebrows -- and his stock -- as the Thunder eliminated 67-15 San Antonio and have historical Golden State teetering on the brink, with a game 6 tonight that could send OKC back to the Finals to face LeBron James and The Cleveland Cavaliers.
Officially, there's been no tougher road to the NBA Finals than 2016 Oklahoma City's. However, in 11 playoff starts, Adams' two-way efficacy has bolstered his three-seeded unit's competitive zeal. As Durant and Westbrook have led the way offensively, the seven-foot Phenom is a burgeoning double-double machine.
And though Adams' regular-season averages of 8 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.1 block in 25 minutes are pedestrian, the third-year big man's playoff offerings of 10.3 points, 9.6 rebounds (3.2 offensive) and one block have vexed opposing front lines. Opposite heavily-favored San Antonio, Adams controlled the glass, hauling in 11.8 boards per game. More importantly, the "Kiwi Warrior" rendered Tim Duncan virtually irrelevant.
Adams' thorough dominance opposite San Antonio has many calling for Duncan's retirement. During the Thunder's convincing 4-2 series triumph, Adams recorded five of his six post-season double-doubles, while boasting a plus/minus of +60 in OKC's four wins.
Steven Adams https://t.co/Eqffn0Nj4j— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 27, 2016
Though Adams' plus-minus (-17) has declined against Golden State, his competitive zeal remains (10.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, one block). While bearing the brunt of an unmitigated Warrior mugging, Adams has failed to relent or cower to the wounded defending champs.
Adams' reserved dignity after sustaining a blatant game three Draymond Green cheap-shot epitomizes his unflappable character. While many cringed while watching Green boot the Thunder center in the groin, the former rugby star calmly shrugged it off while speaking of his scrumming days.
While it's apparent Adams' interior play will likely determine Oklahoma City's chances in slaying consecutive Goliaths, it's also clear Steven Adams is the breakout star of the 2016 NBA playoffs.
I'm NBA writer/freelance journalist Joshua Broom. This is my debut article with WTLC. I'm a "basketball lifer" and also a huge OKC fan.