- PG: Stephen Curry
- SG: Klay Thompson
- SF: Harrison Barnes
- PF: Draymond Green
- C: Andrew Bogut
Game 1 Pick & Preview of OKC Thunder vs Golden State Warriors
The Oklahoma City Thunder, fresh off of an impressive six-game upset win over the San Antonio Spurs, head to the Oracle Arena to take on the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. The week gets started off right in the NBA, as the 2016 Western Conference Finals tip off in an effort to decide which of these two squads gets to play for the league title in the 2016 NBA Finals.
OKC is looking for their second trip to the Finals in the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook era, while rookie head coach Billy Donovan would be making his first run. The trio mapped out a successful path so far, but now will be hard-pressed to take down the defending champs in what should be an explosive series.
Golden State never backs down from a challenge, but as confident and talented as they are, they may be a little worried after seeing the Thunder dispatch a Spurs team that many pegged as the second best team all year. The Warriors boast the top offense and an elite home record, however, so if they can just stay the course, they could be looking at a second straight trip to the promised land.
Golden State Warriors Team Preview
Golden State enters the Western Conference Finals fairly well rested after taking down the Portland Trail Blazers in just five games in round two. They’ve made quick work in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but one downside of their easy path thus far is they may not be very battle tested.
That could have them in for a rude awakening in game one, but being at home and going up against a familiar foe (one they beat 3-0 in the regular season) should have them plenty ready. It also doesn’t hurt that league MVP Stephen Curry returned from knee and ankle ailments in time to end Portland’s playoff run – looking as good as ever in the process.
The Warriors know they need to set the tempo right away in game one, and that should consist of a lot of running and gunning. Curry and co. have had zero trouble putting up points on the Thunder thus far, but could be faced with the harsh reality that OKC’s improved defense in round two could be here to stay. They’ll put that to the test right out of the gates, however, and chances are it was a one-round anomaly.
The only real issue for the Dubs to start this series could be the health of their two best big men, Draymond Green (ankle) and Andrew Bogut (adductor strain). Green already said he’s “fine” and should be ready to rock, while Bogut also seems likely to suit up. Bogut may not be deployed as much as usual, however, as he didn’t find a ton of success against OKC in their three regular season meetings and the Warriors may be better off rolling out their smaller lineup to get OKC to keep some of their size off the court.
|5/11/16||VS Blazers||Win 125-121|
|5/9/16||at Blazers||Win 132-125 (OT)|
|5/7/16||at Blazers||Lost 120-108|
|5/3/16||VS Blazers||Win 110-99|
|5/1/16||VS Blazers||Win 118-106|
Oklahoma City Thunder Team Preview
This is going to be a very interesting series for OKC, as they clearly have the offense to battle with the Warriors and simply need to find a way to keep their defensive playing at a high level. The main reason why it was so good last round was because of the emergence of Enes Kanter against LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan, but it’s tough to bank on him making an impact with Golden State not relying on post scoring or big men in general. A switch full-time to their small ball lineup could render Kanter fairly useless, potentially.
That certainly doesn’t mean OKC can give up on Kanter entirely in this series, but they’ll both have to pick their spots and find other ways to combat Golden State’s smaller lineup. The first thing will be to get all they can out of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on offense – something that shouldn’t be too tough considering their high level of success in this matchup in the past.
- PG: Russell Westbrook
- SG: Andre Roberson
- SF: Kevin Durant
- PF: Serge Ibaka
- C: Steven Adams
Finding the right players to rotate on Curry will be key, too, although it also could be a waste of time, seeing as no one has been able to truly contain the MVP for the past two years.
OKC’s best bet in the end is going to be winning a foot race, and given their two elite scoring options and solid supporting cast, that isn’t out of the question. They’ll need someone extra to step up to get it done on the road in game one, however, putting the onus on someone like Dion Waits, Randy Foye or the aforementioned Kanter having a big game to get this series going.
|5/12/16||VS Spurs||Win 113-99|
|5/10/16||at Spurs||Win 95-91|
|5/8/16||VS Spurs||Win 111-97|
|5/6/16||VS Spurs||Lost 100-96|
|5/2/16||at Spurs||Win 98-97|
Thunder at Warriors Game 1 Preview
Only two teams have won at the Oracle Arena all season and the Thunder have beaten the Warriors just once in the past two years. Right away this looks like a favorable spot for the Dubs, but we need to consider that OKC did just get done winning two road games against the Spurs – something the entire NBA couldn’t do during the whole regular season.
It’s very possible the Thunder are a team of destiny, coming together at exactly the right time and making the proper adjustments on the fly to give them the edge they need. That is certainly what happened in round two, and while it’s no lock to happen against the defending champs, it’s something we all need to ready for.
On the surface, however, this is clearly still Golden State’s series to lose. One big reason why is because the Thunder used Enes Kanter to take advantage of San Antonio’s lineup, while Russell Westbrook didn’t have to tire out defensively against a less than spectacular Tony Parker. He very well could suffer from fatigue with the task of slowing down Stephen Curry (although it’s likely OKC will sick Andre Roberson and others on him), while Golden State’s small ball (better known as the death lineup) should off-set the use of Kanter and to a certain point, fellow big man, Steven Adams.
The Warriors have a lot of talented bodies to throw at Kevin Durant to slow him down, too, as Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green could all chip in to try to keep him from taking over this series. That worked against LeBron James in the Finals last year, so it stands to reason it could work again.
After winning mostly a defensive series last round, OKC will need to rediscover their offensive touch in a marathon that promises to have much more offense. They should steal a win or two at home, but starting in game one, it’s likely we discover that the same strengths the Thunder exhibited against San Antonio may end up being glaring weaknesses against the Dubs.
|3/3/16||Warriors 121, Thunder 106|
|2-27/16||Warriors 121, Thunder 118 (OT)|
|2/6/16||Warriors 116, Thunder 108|
|1/16/15||Thunder 127, Warriors 115|
|1/5/15||Warriors 117, Thunder 91|
|12/18/14||Warriors 114, Thunder 109|
|11/23/14||Warriors 91, Thunder 86|
Golden State swept the regular season series (3-0) this year in three entertaining shootout affairs, one of which was good for an intense overtime clash. OKC has only stolen one win in the past two years, while the ringing sentiment here is offense in just about every game. In the past seven meetings, the Dubs have won six and have managed to score 114+ points six times. The only defensive battle went to the Warriors, as well.
|Win/Loss||73-9 (39-2 at home)||55-27 (23-18 away)|
There isn’t a ton to be learned when you look at the numbers for both teams, as we already knew both teams were exceptionally gifted offensively. Golden State’s defensive numbers tend to suffer due to the fast pace they roll with, but they can still put the clamps down with the best of them. OKC normally does not, but they stepped up their defense against the Spurs, and it will be interesting to see if they can give the Warriors the same trouble.
Considering Golden State does not rely on a dual big man lineup, it’s tough to side with that notion, however. If this turns into a grind it out battle, the defending champs still look to have the edge, same as if this game gets into a full blown shootout. The Warriors have Stephen Curry back and can win in any way necessary, and after winning an NBA record 73 games, it’s going to take something special from the Thunder to knock them out of their throne.
Recommended Game 1 Bet
I firmly believe the Warriors will control game one and the entire series en route to a return to the NBA Finals, but after seeing OKC upset a very good Spurs team, the Thunder are not to be taken lightly.
OKC has a solid history with Golden State, and this year alone they drove them to an intense overtime battle and were able to pile on 108+ points in all three of their meetings. If that same defensive edge we saw in round two can remain, the Thunder will at least make things interesting. Given their star power and impressive play, I can’t see them getting rocked in what is going to be a very intense game one. The Warriors should win, but OKC will keep them on their heels.
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