Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Golden State going down?

It sure looks like it. The Okla City Thunder seem to have their number. As they say, how quick the worm can turn. Let's recap:

The Warriors were all but unbeatable at home this year during the regular season, losing only once -- in the last week of the season. Plus, they put up the best regular season record of all time.

So it was somewhat surprising when OKC waltzed into GS and knocked them off in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. Remember, OKC wasn't even supposed to be there. Most thought they wouldn't get by the San Antonio Spurs in the semis. We know how that worked out.

Then GS roared back with a resounding victory in Game 2 to even the series. All was well in Oakland and the oddsmakers still had GS ultimately prevailing. Surely they would win at least one game in Okieland to regain home-court advantage -- or so many thought.

Even after the defending champs got blown out in Game 3, it wasn't that much cause for concern. They hadn't lost two games in a row all season, including the playoffs. They'd find a way in Game 4 -- right?

Wrong. Instead, they were run out of the building by the Thunder as they piled on yet another lop-sided victory to take a "commanding" 3-1 series lead.

GS is definitely in trouble. Though they're going back home for Game 5, it appears highly unlikely they can win the next three in a row against a team that is playing at a phenomenal level. Especially Game 6, which would be back in OKC's arena.

Before the debacle of Game 4 occurred, some were quick to point out that GS had been down 2-1 last year in the playoffs -- twice. Against the Memphis Grizzlies, and then against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Obviously, they overcame those deficits to eventually win the championship.

But those circumstances were a lot different than what's going on now. If one harkens back, they will recall the Grizz were a banged up team at the time without the services of a couple of their best players. In the Finals against the Cavs, both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were out. Lebron was trying to do a one-man show, like in his early Cleveland years. It wasn't enough against a healthy Warrior team. Not too surprisingly, after being down 2-1 to both teams, the Warriors got their act together and steamrolled both for the next three games.

The Oklahoma City Thunder is a whole different animal. Known earlier in the year for squandering fourth quarter leads, they found a way to gel and became stronger and stronger late in the season. The same trend has continued during the playoffs. Dispatching the Dallas Mavs in the opening round hardly raised any eyebrows, but when they clobbered the Spurs in the conference semis, ceding home court advantage going in, it was time to sit up and pay attention. These guys are not only really good, but peaking at exactly the right time.

Besides a more than able supporting cast, the Thunder feature the two-headed superstar monster of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. And under new coach Billy Donovan, they are playing far, FAR, better team defense than they had in the past. Put it all together, along with the confidence they have gained in recent weeks, and the Thunder are a formidable opponent for anybody -- including the Warriors. As long as they avoid any key injuries -- never a given -- this team is going to be mighty tough to beat.

That likely sets up an NBA Finals match with Cleveland. True, the Toronto Raptors came back to tie the Eastern Conference finals 2-2, but good luck finding anybody outside the Toronto area that truly believes the Raptors can knock off a healthy Cavs team 2 out of the next 3 games, especially with two of them being in Cleveland if it goes that far. Sure, it's possible. The Raptors are a very good team. But it would be considered an upset of epic proportions if they were to somehow pull it off. Despite one clueless Cleveland coach being fired, only to be replaced by another, Lebron's on a mission to bring a title to his sorta home town, and this time he's got some serious help.

And what a series that would be. A King, a Kyrie, and a Kevin going up against another Kevin and a seemingly unstoppable Russell? Plus both teams totally healthy with deep, strong supporting casts? Could this finally be the year of Lebron's Cleveland coronation, or would the oncoming Thunder prove to be too much for them as they showed San Antonio and are currently in the process of doing the same to GS?

Oh my. Somewhere the TV execs are likely licking their chops over such a prospect. Let the ratings and ad money pour in.

But first things first. The Warriors aren't done yet. Though a comeback seems unlikely the way OKC is playing, you never know. Stranger things have happened. Neither are the Raptors. After all, that series is tied 2-2. If Toronto can hold serve at home and win just one measly game at Cleveland in two tries -- well -- wouldn't that be something?

Personally, yours truly doesn't see either series ever making it to a Game 7. I hope I'm wrong, as I so often am. Deciding Game 7s are great drama. And you just never know what might happen. The possibility of a star (or two) getting injured at the most crucial time always lurks. Let's hope everybody stays healthy throughout and may the "best" teams win in hard fought games.

That's really all we can ask for......

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