Culture of Hoops

Three Takeaways From the Western Conference Finals

Screen capture courtesy of the NBA/YouTube.

Screen capture courtesy of the NBA/YouTube.

The Western Conference Finals started a little slow, but ended with as good of a finish as any. As many had thought, the 73-win Warriors battled it out and beat a tough Oklahoma City team in a thrilling fashion. But I think this series left many to question what went on? How did a team so good become so vulnerable at times? So I felt it was time to throw some takeaways on what had transpired in this historically memorable series.


1. Oklahoma City is very good and as bad as it may sound, they shouldn’t feel as horrible as some make it out to be.

Bottom line is the Thunder were the better team for most of this series, but Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry happened. While I get that you could make the argument that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant could do the same, they really couldn’t with the team they had around them. (Cough, cough) Whether it was Andre Roberson passing up the most open shot in NBA history, or Enes Kanter not being able to hold his own for the second part of the series, the Thunder’s bench were no match for firepower from the Warriors’ bench mob. I understand that Roberson played incredible defense, but if you can’t be effective offensively, you’re a stranglehold on your team.

Despite the lack of depth and truly efficient offensive players, Oklahoma City really gave Golden State the hardest seven games since before there were “Splash Brothers”, record-breaking seasons, and bandwagon Warriors fans. And for that, the Thunder really deserve the utmost credit for producing an enthralling and incredible series. For a team that won 73 games and looked completely immortal, you made them look mortal for a better-part of the series, too bad it wasn’t better timed.


2. Lay off Draymond Green

Look, I understand Draymond can be an absolute annoyance to any NBA fan other than the Warriors’ fans. But in all realism (and I know everyone says it), you’d love to have him on your team. Not only that, but I bet you’d love to play with him as well. His grit, work-ethic, and emotional presence is probably the reason Golden State is continuing to run and operate the way they do. Did he hit Steven Adams in the groin? Yeah, probably. Did he trip Kanter? Yeah. But he was also on the side of a lot of terrible calls as well. I don’t condone what he did or am saying it is right, but in the latter part of this series it felt at times the refs didn’t give him a “break”.

For a better part of the series he made mistakes, missed opportunities, and really looked drained. But he came back to play two good games for the Warriors and really was a driving force on the boards and when they needed him.

So while I get he can appear annoying, frustrating, and “grinds your gears”, think about the other side of it. Look back at Game 6 and 7 to visually see the missed calls on both sides, but specifically against Green.


3. A bad shot for one is a good shot for another

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson make shooting look so simple, don’t they? It’s incredible to see two players just continually barrage an opponent with three-after-three. At times I thought, this is painful to watch and I can’t imagine being OKC. What are you to do when two players of Klay and Steph’s stature are hitting from everywhere? Well….you can try to do the same. But it just doesn’t seem to work that way. See the final six minutes of regulation in Game 7 to understand where I am coming from.

It’s just demoralizing to watch a team go from 3-1 up, to 3-3, to a Game 7 with as good a chance as any to beat Golden State in their building. I don’t blame Durant and Westbrook for chucking up a couple shots and seeing if they’d rim in. But it’s just not that simple, you can’t beat Golden State at their own game. You’ve got to find ways to create easy buckets and out-rebound them, which couldn’t be done with just Durant and Westbrook.



So all in all, we’ve seen the team that has destiny written all over it, go to the Finals for a second straight season. Will they come home with the crown? I don’t know. I think the series will be one of the best all-time, either way you shake it. It’s got a Game 7 feel to it already. But what I do know is we can’t continue to say Oklahoma City choked, this wasn’t L.A. vs Houston from last season, that was a choke. This series was the case of a great team going up two incredibly athletic and gifted athletes, and while the two potentially more talented players (I’ll leave that for debate) were spectacular for a good part of the series, it wasn’t enough to beat an all-time great team.

If you’re asking me, we got the best bang for our buck in any series we’ve ever seen. The first four games were a little dreary, but the final three lived up to the expectations and some.


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