The Oklahoma City Thunder led the Western Conference Finals three games to one. All they needed was to win one game in the last three of the series and they would be off to the NBA Finals. They had blown the Warriors out in two straight games. This series was over, right? Wrong. But does this mean the Thunder choked? No.
The Golden State Warriors were 73-9 in the regular season. They never lost consecutive games all year until the two games in Oklahoma City in Games Three and Four. They had two of the last three games at home. Really, this was a one game, winner-take-all series, and that game was Game Six in Oklahoma City. You had the feeling that if the Thunder did not close the series out in Game Five, then they had to have Game Six. Because if it went back to Oakland for Game Seven, with the Warriors on a two-game win streak, it was over. And it was.
But this was nothing like the Houston Rockets coming back to beat the Los Angeles Clippers a season ago after being down three to one. The Clippers choked in that one. Yes, they did have Game Five on the road and lost. But in Game Six back at Staples Center, the Clippers had a huge lead late in the third quarter, and they imploded. The Thunder did not have a huge lead late in Game Six. Yes, at one point the lead got into double digits, just like it did in Game Seven. But a double digit lead against Golden State can be erased in about four trips down the court with the way Steph Curry and Klay Thompson shoot threes. To have a big lead against them, you need to be up by 30.
Golden State took the series more than OKC gave it away. When it got down to crunch time in both Game Six and Game Seven, the Warriors made the plays. They were the better team. They are the defending champions and they played like it. In another year, on another time and place, the Thunder may win the NBA Championship with this team, but this was not the year. Much like some great Utah Jazz teams with Karl Malone and John Stockton leading the charge, the Thunder is a victim of bad timing. The Jazz had the misfortune of hitting their peak during the Jordan era. The Thunder is feeling their pain right now.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are probably in that same boat with them. Any other time and place, the Cavs likely break the “Cleveland Curse” this year. Heck, they might have down it last year. But the reality is it looks like Lebron James is about to lose in the NBA Finals for the third straight season and the fifth time in seven tries in his career. Does this mean he is not one of the all-time great players? No. He just has been the victim of bad timing.
The Golden State Warriors are one of the best team in the history of this game. To call the team that lost to them chokers is really an insult to them.