Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How Oklahoma City Could End Golden State's Dream Season

            Many people and pundits were expecting the 2016 NBA Western Conference Finals to be between the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. After all, these two teams had remarkable regular season records. Stephen Curry and the Warriors lived up to their end of the bargain. However, the Spurs were upended by... the Oklahoma City Thunder?
            It's hard to believe that the Thunder are facing the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. However, Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City proved they could hang with the Dubs by winning Game 1 by a score of 108-102. Now the media's going crazy over how the Warriors were throwing up desperation shots in Game 1. So how can the Thunder 'shock' the world and advance to the NBA Finals?

  1. Solid Shooting From the Field: The Thunder are shooting great from the field this postseason. Both Steven Adams (.662%) and Enes Kanter (.573%) are in the top five in field goal percentage during the postseason. In fact, OKC ranks fourth in team field goal percentage in the playoffs with .461% of their field goals made (Golden State is number two). Golden State can score a lot of points in a hurry, so the Thunder will need their best shooters to come up big.
  2. Outrebound: Everyone knows that Golden State likes to go small. They've had great success with this while draining three-pointers this season. However, the Warriors aren't guaranteed to drain every three-point shot they attempt. That's where rebounding matters. The Thunder leads the NBA in rebound differential this postseason, outrebounding their opponents by 9.5 rebounds per game (Golden State is seventh, getting outebounded by 0.7 per game). The Thunder outrebounded the Warriors 52-44 in their Game 1 victory. OKC will need to get big and outmuscle Golden State on the boards.
  3. Russell Westbrook Must Have a Monster Series: Westbrook is averaging 25.7 PPG this postseason along with a three-point percentage of .338% (better than his regular season percentage of .296). He's also distributing the ball more, averaging 0.5 more assists this postseason (he led the league in assists per game). Westbrook had 27 points, 12 assists, and seven steals in OKC's Game 1 win. The Warriors will focus a good deal on Durant. This is where Westbrook needs to explode in a good way.
  4. Defend: The Warriors led the NBA in the regular season in point differential with 10.8 PPG. However, this statistic is a bit misleading. Golden State led the NBA in team PPG, scoring 114.9 PPG. The second-best team in the differential category, the San Antonio Spurs (10.6), allowed 92.9 PPG. Pressuring the Warriors to take bad shots will be the key to dismantling them, which is exactly what the Thunder did in the second half of Game 1. The Thunder outscored the Warriors 61-42 in the second half and limited the Warriors to just making 36.7% of their three-point shots (the Thunder made 47.1% of their three-point shots). Playing good defense will create more opportunities for the Thunder on the offensive side.

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