The Oklahoma City Thunder lead the NBA Western Conference finals 3-2 against the Golden State Warriors. Game 6 will air Saturday night at 9 p.m. EST on TNT, in what many are calling the biggest game of the season. Currently, Vegas odds have the Thunder as the home favorites by 3.5 points, and many professionals are expecting the Thunder to close out the series in Game 6 – but don’t count the Warriors out just yet.
The record-setting Warriors – and defending champions – have a knack for turning things around and getting the job done. One of the big differences that led to a Warriors victory (120-111) in Game 5 was Andrew Bogut. The seven-foot Australian struggled earlier in this series, but in Game 5 he gave his best post season performance yet with 15 points and 14 rebounds, showing everyone what he can do when he stays out of foul trouble. If Bogut can play tight in Game 6, he will be a difference-maker again. Shooting-guard Klay Thompson had a stunning performance in Thursday’s game, scoring 27 points, and power-forward Draymond Green recovered from his struggles earlier in this series by providing 11 points and 13 rebounds.
MVP Stephen Curry may not be playing at 100 percent, given the bevy of recent injuries, but one could hardly tell in Game 5, where he finished with 31 points, six assists, and seven rebounds. Warriors coach Steve Kerr joked after the game.
“I thought he looked, like, 91 percent.”
The Warriors once again look like the record-setting, 73-win team that they are, and the two-time MVP Stephen Curry is excited for Game 6. This can only spell trouble for the Thunder. In a postgame interview on Thursday, Curry explained the Warriors’ past troubles in Oklahoma City, and how he feels about returning to the Chesapeake Energy Arena for Game 6.
“We didn’t give ourselves any chance to be competitive in OKC and tonight we finally showed what we’re capable of and we have to take that game and travel for game six. We’re excited about that opportunity we have, another game to play…For us we play better when we’re having fun and enjoying the moment. We played like we were really stressed in OKC and it showed, kind of tried to let loose, be ourselves, have fun, enjoy what we were doing—it was a good feeling out there to perform at a high level. Gotta bottle up that joy and take it with us on that plane tomorrow to OKC and be ready on Saturday. It’s going to be an electric atmosphere and I think we’re ready for the challenge.”
And a challenge it will be. Looking at the statistics of the Thunder’s two biggest players, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, it’s hard to believe that they were on the losing end of things Thursday night. Durant scored 40 points and Westbrook put 31 on the board. Durant’s season average is 28.2 points per game and Westbrook averaged 23.5. The duo is a force to be reckoned with, but Draymond Green feels the Warriors’ experience will make the difference.
“(The Thunder) are always in attack mode (at home), so we’ve got to make sure that we go in there and exceed their intensity level and try to take the crowd out the game,” he said. “We’ve done it before (in the regular season). We know what it takes to do it. So we’ve just got to make sure that we use that experience. Obviously it’s a different team, different challenge, but same formula.”
Normally, the pressure would be on the team that will be eliminated if they lose – in this case the Warriors – but the Thunder have to be feeling the pressure. The Warriors have won three consecutive games nine times during the season, and if the Thunder lose this game, the series returns to Oakland at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost only three times all season.
Given the fact that the Warriors are the greatest NBA team of the modern era, and that for the last two seasons they have done whatever was needed to put a checkmark in the win column, fans shouldn’t bet against them. Expect a close game, but a narrow victory tonight by the defending champions. Final score prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 110, and Golden State Warriors 116 to win the game.
[Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]