Who thought the Oklahoma City Thunder had a realistic chance to win Game One of the Western Conference Finals? Very few people. Who thought they still had a shot at halftime down by 10 points? Nobody. Kevin Durant’s mom probably had given up hope when the Warriors immediately stretched the lead to 13 at the start of the third quarter. But the Thunder kept playing.
By the end of the third quarter, OKC had tied the game with a 38 point outburst in the period. Kevin Durant, who many wondered whether the two games in Oklahoma City against the San Antonio Spurs in Games Three and Four, would be his last there as a member of the home team, scored 27 points and added 12 assists. Not only does K.D. have at least two more game in OKC this season, it looks now as id he will have plenty more. The Thunder has a legitimate shot at winning the NBA Championship now. If that happens, Durant will probably be back not just for next season, but for many years to come.
Should we give up on the Warriors? Of course not. This team won 73 games for a reason. They are more than capable of going to OKC and getting a win or even two. But now, this is a series.
There is so much intrigue now. What effect would a Thunder championship have on both the NBA and the college basketball landscape? If long time college great but first year NBA coach Billy Donovan wins the NBA Championship, might this send other NBA teams to the college game looking for a coach?
If bug time college coaches are watching Billy D having this great run in his first try at the NBA Playoffs, might they think “I could do that in the right situation?” Kentucky’s John Calipari’s name comes up every time an NBA job opens up. He continues to stress that he has the best job in basketball and is not interested in the NBA. But if one of his SEC rival coaches wins the NBA title, might that change his mind?
There are potential Thunder-type jobs that could well open up soon, such as the Miami Heat, who is about one good free agent signing away for being a serious title contender again. Or there is also the Philadelphia 76ers who are stockpiling young talent, many of whom played for Calipari at Kentucky.
But we digress, this win on the road was as impressive as any we’ve witnessed in these playoffs. This was not the Warriors without Steph Curry. Curry was in this game and scored 26 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had seven assists. The Thunder won anyway.
The Thunder also won in the fourth quarter. If there has been a knock against them this season, it is for their propensity to wilt down the stretch of games. The Thunder had a very poor record in games they led with 5:00 to go this season. But that problem seems to have been addressed as they outscored Golden State 23-14 in the fourth. Yes, that is right, they held the Warriors to 14 fourth quarter points!
This series while far from over, is now well worth watching even if you aren’t a Thunder or Warriors fan.