We head into tonight's deciding game 7 between the Thunder and Warriors. After squandering a 3-1 series lead, are the Thunder about to complete an epic collapse after controlling the series against a historically significant team? Or can they rediscover themselves in time to change the narrative once again? The WTLC staff weighs in.
Cray Allred: The Thunder rarely win gracefully, and they've managed to zap any notion of elegance out of a series they could have closed out in five or six games.
Will the three-happy Warriors continue marching through the Thunder and toward history? Probably, and if they spring loose on a big run at any time in the first three quarters, definitely. But while the Thunder have lost ugly, they can definitely win ugly. They're still the more physically imposing team, still have a bulldog point guard, a relentless center, a gauntlet of arms on defense, and an unguardable firethrower who is well overdue for a strong shooting night.
If the Thunder play their game and a few more shots fall, a shocker of a Finals appearance is still within their reach. The odds of that clicking (I put it at 10%) are brutal, but so have been the odds of them muscling through their first 11 postseason wins as massive title underdogs.
Joshua Broom: The 2016 Thunder post-season has been magical. Never before has a team faced such a daunting road to the NBA Finals, yet here they stand, one win away.
However, standing in their path is a streaking 73-win Golden State juggernaut. On the season, the Warriors lost just twice at Oracle Arena.
The surreal fashion in which Golden State stole game six, and Oklahoma City's magic, leads me to pick the Warriors in a tough-fought game seven.
On their home-floor, in a must-win, Oklahoma City couldn't quite slay the giant. Now defeating Golden State becomes a near impossibility.
Before this series started I had the high hopes that OKC would keep their strong play and this Thunder 2.0 team would push the Warriors to a Game 7--which they would ultimately lose.
Now we're here. However the path to that Game 7 has been different than I ever expected. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook helped lead this team to an impeccable 3-1 lead and the whole sports world was ready to celebrate the dethroning of the Golden State Warriors.
Champions don't go down easily and the Warriors have fought and scratched their way back to tie the series. In my 5 Day Forecast piece I projected that the Thunder would lose a heratbreaker at Oracle. Yet, that heartbreaker came a game early. For 40-43 minutes the Thunder looked to have the upper hand and a return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2012 secured.
Then everything stopped. OKC stopped running offensive sets. They stopped harassing and pressuring high on the Warriors shooters. They stopped moving the ball.
They reverted back to the Thunder everyone has known for years. A team that relies on isolation plays and hero ball with shaky defensive effort. This series has been everything I expected and more and that being said I'm going to stick with my original prediction, Warriors in 7. Bring on the choke narratives!
Kevin Durant doesn't want to be the face of a franchise. The pressure that comes with that is too much for him. Russell Westbrook, on the other hand, loves being the face of a franchise and will be the face of the Thunder when Durant leaves. However, Westbrook's stint as the leader won't last long because he'll leave and sign with the Lakers in 2017.
J.A. Sherman: Heading into this series, I predicted that it would not be easy, but there was a pathway to success for the Thunder. But could they find it?
They did. OKC absolutely found the solution to beating this team, and not just through fluky play or uncommon hot shooting, but through preparation, execution, and an understanding of what could slow Golden State down on offense and break them down on defense. It was breathtaking to see, because in the span of two weeks the Thunder found themselves, leaving behind so much of the things that held them back through the years, making them formidable against any team.
And then, they abdicated it. Either through choice or because the Warriors somehow caused them to change through adjustment and gamesmanship, but the Thunder that played games 5 and 6 is not the same team that won 4 games against the Spurs and games 3 and 4 against the Warriors. And that is what makes this game 7 feel so futile. They found the key to beating a historically significant team only to set it aside when it looked like things were in the bag. And you could see the change happen as game 6 played out, where the Thunder went from in control but sloppy, to their failure to close out the 1st half, to offering the Warriors a sliver of hope, and then Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry started dropping bombs from all over the court, to a 4th quarter collapse that we have seen a hundred times over the past 5 seasons.
The pathway is still there, but OKC, as they tend to do, have made it so much more difficult than it had to be. I give them a 10% chance to pull off the upset tonight, a 25% chance that they'll lose in a fashion similar to game 6, and a 65% chance that the Warriors will drop an avalanche on them.
R.K. Anthony: I was discussing this Thunder team with a co-worker and told them if there ever was a "we'll see" team it is this Thunder bunch. Completely destroy Dallas in game one, drop a big turd in game 2. Got humiliated in game one against the Spurs, beat the legendary Pops and the winningest regular season team he ever put on the court 4 out to the next 5 games. Stun the Warriors in game on in Oakland, then get spanked in game 2. Come back to Oklahoma City and play probably the two finest games of the season to take a 3 to 1 lead and then KD and Russell have back to back brain cramps and forget how they did it. Now the Thunder have to salvage this incredible run ..... on the road.... against the reigning MVP.... and his Splash brother who I swear could have tossed the ball over his shoulder and kicked the ball with his heel, blindfolded and double teamed and still hit nothing but net in game 6... and did I mention, against a team with the best record in NBA history.... on 2 days rest.
My prediction is... "We'll see." Not whether the the Thunder win or lose, but rather "we'll see" which team gets off the plane at Oakland International Airport. The Ball Movement Magicians from games 3 and 4 that can't be stopped, or the Bowel Movement Heroes that stop themselves. Option 1 is so sweet diabetics have to check their blood sugar when they play; option 2 just stinks up the joint. One can't lose, the other can't win, not against the Warriors at any rate. We'll see.
Chris Hanneke: Despite my attempt at optimism in yesterday's post, it's hard to imagine any scenario where the Thunder win this one. The Warriors were the better team coming in, but the Thunder gave them the best counter punch they've seen in two years. Only problem is, they withstood it just enough, and it's hard to see them letting up now. I picked Warriors in 7 coming in, so I should probably just stick with it now.
But sports are random and make no sense, and just when you're ready to bury this Thunder team (and possibly even the franchise, as I was at least twice during the Spurs series), they prove you wrong. So f--k it, let's go crazy one last time and hope for a miracle. Thunder 107, Warriors 99.