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What To Watch For
Although this is not the matchup that most wanted to see in the Western Conference, this should be the best series in the playoffs yet. You have stars, scoring champs, all-stars, role players and deep benches. Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) couldn’t beat the Golden State Warriors in the regular season although they came close to doing so having the lead late in both of the last two games they faced each other. This is all about who can be the most clutch, who will overcome mistakes, and what stars will rise up more often than their counterparts. This is brewing a seven game series and maybe a one for the ages.
Keys To The Game
OKC really needs to focus on one major factor….continue to ride that confidence wave they’ve been on for the last four games. When it comes to games late in May, if you have any doubt in your head, no matter what happens during the first 46 minutes, you can screw it up from having any doubt. It can easily bee seen as “We were close the last two and we can beat this team” or it can be viewed the other way around where it becomes mental and they can’t get over the hump. They need to make sure they don’t try to play the Warriors’ game. Each of the last two teams tried and although the Portland Trailblazers had huge leads in three of the five games, they lost because they couldn’t keep it up the entire game. Also they have to keep the turnovers to a minimum. You don’t want the Warriors to get extra possessions and get going as well as the crowd in a game 1.
Golden State needs to be who they are by playing as a team, being confident and letting No. 30 loose. Stephen Curry is the main key of course but the help defense needs to be there for him to help him with Russell Westbrook. Now if they counter with putting Klay Thompson on Westbrook, then Thompson has to be careful in not getting two fouls. This is not the Houston Rockets and the Trailblazers, talent is stacked on the Thunder’s side so they need every man on board to be available.
The X-Factor for the Thunder is Serge Ibaka. Ibaka has been criticized for most of the season and playoffs for settling and looking for his jump shot. Contrary to others’ belief, his jumper is exactly what OKC needs this series and especially for Game 1. If he’s able to hit his outside shot, that will draw Draymond Green outside to honor his shot which will take the Warriors best rebounder out of the paint then OKC will be able to dominate the boards with their bigs and Westbrook. He also must contain Green from the outside. Ibaka’s atleticsm is good enough to guard Green on the perimeter and slow him down.
The X-Factor for the Warriors is Harrison Barnes. Barnes has been a disappearing act throughout the playoffs. His presence can be definitely felt with hitting timely threes that can either stop a run or break the game wide open. He will be able to get his looks with all of the attention going towards Curry, Green and Thompson. And if he can bother Durant just a enough to get him off rhythm then he can help propel his team to a victory.
Predictions: OKC has a chance to silence some doubters by stealing one in Oracle Arena but Golden State has a tendency of blowing teams out in the first game of the series. OKC stuns Golden State 107-99