In game four of the Western Conference Finals, the OKC Thunder played like a team desperate for a win, and now they are on the brink of the NBA Finals after a 118-94 victory. If/when the Thunder finish off the 73 win Warriors, this run through the Western Conference—beating the 67 win Spurs in the semifinals, then the Warriors—will be one of the most amazing things to ever happen in the NBA.
This would be more easy to rationalize if these games were competitive. It would be easier to wrap your head around OKC’s impending NBA Finals berth if they were going to war every night.
But, really, they aren’t at war. They aren’t even in a cold war. They don’t need to be. Because they are better.
Better than the 67 win Spurs. Better than the 73 win Warriors.
They are Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Two bad motherfuckers.
The tempo and pace of the game was theirs from the tip. When Dion Waiters hit a three-pointer to go up by eight early, Steve Kerr called a reluctant timeout. The crowd was delirious. Westbrook was doing Westbrook things. If Golden State wasn’t going to come out guns blazing, it was going to be near impossible to win this game.
And they didn’t do that. Though within striking difference after one period, they were blitzed in the second, and trailed by 19 at halftime. Superstitions and jinxes aside, at that point the game was over.
Curry was underwhelming again. He shot 6 of 20. Draymond Green, whose kick heard round the world was the story for the last two days, was bad again. He shot 1 of 7.
“This is the first time I haven’t responded to my critics,” he said after the game.
There are plenty of firsts for this Golden State team to think about.
The first time Draymond Green has looked scared.
The first time a defense has successfully harassed and intimidated Steph Curry.
The first time a team has demoralized them. The first time a team has taken a 3-1 lead on them.
The lone bright spot for the Warriors was Klay Thompson, who at one point scored 19 in a row and made the game somehwat interesting in the third quarter.
But OKC’s avalanche of abrasion kept coming, and by mid way through the fourth quarter it was hot-garbage time. He finished with 26.
Westbrook’s 36-11-11 stat line will join every other historically great game he has had this postseason. Durant’s 26 weren’t easy, but they were the perfect distraction for Westbrook to run wild. Andre Roberson’s 17 were a pleasant surprise. Ibaka’s 17 points were a flash back to his dominance of a few years ago.
What is happening to the OKC Thunder? It’s hard to explain. I don’t have the answer. Perhaps they got tired of the criticism. Perhaps they had a players only meeting and decided they would all start liking each other. Who knows. We might never find out.
But we do know is that this team is suddenly becoming everything NBA fans wanted it to be.
For Westbrook and Durant, it’s winning time. And it will be winning time until it’s time to hold the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Here are the first half highlights.
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