3 Reasons the Thunder will beat the Warriors, and vice versa

Written by :
Published on : May 16, 2016

 

 

The Western Conference Finals begin Monday night, but it’s not the matchup everyone was expecting after the Oklahoma City Thunder upset the San Antonio Spurs in the conference semi-finals. The top-seeded Golden State Warriors have been taking care of business with or without two-time MVP Stephen Curry, ousting the Blazers in just five games. While the Warriors are the overwhelming favorites, no one gave the Thunder a shot against the Spurs, so I wouldn’t rule them out against Golden State either. This a series featuring two extremely talented teams with completely different playing styles. There’s a lot of different ways this one could play, so I’ll make a case for both sides. Let’s start with the underdogs…

 

3 reasons the Thunder will upset the Warriors as they did San Antonio:

 

 

1. Durant and Westbrook are locked in

KD Russ

 

After getting blown out by the Spurs in game one, much due to uncharacteristically bad performances by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder’s lethal duo bounced back with authority. In games two-through-six, Durant averaged 31 points, while Westbrook put up his usual ridiculous numbers, averaging 27.4 points, 10.8 assists, and 7.4 rebounds. Of course, we all know these two rack up incredible stats, but it was the way they took over the series and continued finding ways to generate offense against the best defensive team in the NBA that made this so impressive.

 

Durant and Westbrook are playing with better rhythm and harmony than ever before. Rarely have these two stayed healthy deep into playoff runs, and when they have, they’ve made it to the conference Finals or beyond. Right now, they are healthy and clicking better than ever. Westbrook is dialing back on the circus shots and over-dribbling, and Durant is proving he can handle the pressure on the biggest stage. While Golden State has quite possibly the best player in the NBA, Oklahoma City is the only team in the league that can truly claim to have two of the best five.

 

2. Size matters

Adams Ibaka

 

After Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder’s next three leading scorers in the playoffs are all traditional big men (power forwards and centers): Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, and Enes Kanter. Very rare for the current NBA era, where teams are going with smaller, more athletic lineups stacked with three point shooters that can run, spread the floor and hit open shots. While there is certainly a reason to be concerned about OKC’s ability to handle Golden State’s speed and shooting, they should be able to cause equally difficult matchup problems with the post-scoring, shot-blocking and rebounding abilities of their three big men.

 

No matter how tempting it may be for OKC to go small to try to run with the Warriors, they can not beat Golden State at their own game. The Thunder have to play into their own strengths, and that means giving plenty of minutes to Ibaka, Adams and Kanter, often playing two at the same time. They will have to deal with giving up some fast break points in exchange for getting some offensive rebounds and easy post-up baskets, but Oklahoma City has to stay dedicated to beating Golden State with size and physicality.

 

3. Curry’s injuries could still be a problem

Curry hurt

 

While two weeks of rest is plenty for a grade 1 MCL sprain, the fact that the Warriors took such a cautious approach with their superstar, combined with the fact that he missed two games in the first round due to a sprained ankle in the same right leg, suggest that Steph Curry might not be entirely in the clear. Typically when the team favored to win it all sits their best player for two weeks in the playoffs, it’s a somewhat serious injury. Obviously he’s still capable of playing as well as anyone in the league, as proven in games four and five against Portland, but there’s still fear that at any moment he might tweak, twist, or turn something in that pesky right leg again and need to hit the bench for extended time or even miss more games. This wasn’t a major issue against mediocre competition like the Blazers and Rockets, but if Curry isn’t on top of his game against Oklahoma City, the Thunder will be moving on the Finals.

 

C’mon man! We’re talking about the defending NBA Champions, who are fresh off the best regular season in league history. The Warriors are a damn-near unstoppable force, led by back-to-back MVP Steph Curry. You’re just gonna throw out three half-assed reasons on why the Thunder will beat them and say that’s a wrap?!

 

Calm down angry Warriors fan who doesn’t understand the concept of my fair and balanced article. First of all, I’m using my whole ass. And now, without further ado…

 

3 reasons the Warriors will beat the Thunder and get back to the NBA Finals:

 

 

1. Recent history

Golden State

 

The Warriors had the best record in the NBA last season and went on to win the championship. They had the best record in NBA history this year and they coasted through the first two rounds the playoffs, despite missing their best player for much of the run. That player is also just won his second straight MVP award. These things tend to mean something. In this case, it means they deserve to be considered the best team in the NBA, and they should be favored in any series.

 

Sure, Oklahoma City just knocked off a tougher opponent than Golden State has faced in the playoffs this year, which makes the Thunder a little hotter in the “what have you done for me lately” department. But there’s a reason OKC had to face the Spurs in the second round; they were the three seed and the Warriors were the one seed. Golden State won 18 more games than the the Thunder this season. That’s a lot more wins. Even if Oklahoma City somehow bought all of the Lakers wins in the 2015-2016 season, they would still have one less than the Warriors. The Warriors have the much more impressive track record over the last two years, and one impressive series win does not make the Thunder the favorites.

 

2. They have creators

Warriors high five

 

The Thunder’s biggest strength are listed in points 1 & 2 in the section above: They have Durant and Westbrook, and they have three really good big men. But their weakness is just as glaring: lack of players who can handle the ball, create space and get open shots and generate offense for others. It’s nice to have bigs that can get you double-doubles, but those guys generally need help from guards and wings to get them the ball in position to score. In the playoffs, Golden State has six players in the small positions (point guard, shooting guard and small forward) that average over 6 point per game, and that’s not including Draymond Green who plays power forward, but can stretch the floor and do just about everything on a basketball court.

 

Oklahoma City only has three players at the small positions averaging over 6 points per game: Durant (27.4), Westbrook (25.5), and Dion Waiters (9.4). Looking at the assist numbers is even more alarming for Thunder fans, as they only have two players averaging over 2 assists per game in the postseason: Westbrook (10.8) and Durant (3.6). Dion Waiters is their third assist leader with a measly 2 dimes per game. Golden State, meanwhile, has five players averaging over 2 assists per game. The Warriors as a team are dishing out a league-leading 27.1 assist per game to the Thunder’s 20.2 (9th among the 16 teams in the playoffs). The Warriors also have the edge in three point shooting (12.2 per game vs. OKC’s 8.5).

 

What this means (for those of you who haven’t figured it out) is Golden State can move the ball and shoot regardless who’s on the court, giving them the freedom to give Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson some much needed rest. Oklahoma City on the other hand, will struggle to score and be very turnover prone any time Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook are on the bench. If either of these guys have an off night, or get into early foul trouble, it will be nearly impossible for the Thunder to find a way to win.

 

3. He’s back baby!

curry steph

 

You may have read my article a few weeks ago explaining why Steph Curry’s injury was more serious than the team lead on. While that could still be true, he showed no reason for concern in games four and five against Portland. Curry logged 37 minutes in each contest, the most he’s played since April 5. In game four, he came off the bench, looking rusty for much of the game, until he got hot in the fourth quarter, then got hotter in overtime with an NBA-record 17 points, finishing with 40 in the game. He looked like his usual self again in game five as well, scoring 29 with 11 assists and helping put the Blazers out of their misery. Yes, he just sat out for two weeks with sprained right MCL. Yes, he missed two games before that with a sprained ankle in the same leg. And yes, it’s possible that he’s in a fragile state right now and has some nagging injuries, but he certainly gave us the confidence that he is back to MVP form. He also gave himself another four days of rest by finishing off Portland in just five games.

 

Three of the best players in the world will be on display. Both teams will cause matchup problems for the other: Oklahoma City with their size, and Golden State with their ball movement and ability to spread the floor and shoot. In the end, I think the Golden State will have the edge. They just have more guys at the wing and guard positions that can create offense. The Thunder will demand a little too much out of Durant and Westbrook, and the Warriors will be more consistent and efficient on the offensive end. This could all change depending on the status of Steph Curry’s right leg, but until then, I’m picking the Warriors in seven games in what should be the best series in of 2016 playoffs so far.

 

Enjoy.

 

 


Thunder Bounce Spurs

Written by :
Published on : May 12, 2016

 

 

The Oklahoma City Thunder won the all important game 5 on Tuesday to take the series lead 3-2 over the San Antonio Spurs. Game 6 in OKC saw the Spurs battling for their playoff lives. This is a team that many picked to win it all. But the Thunder would not be denied in front of their home town crowd. They went up early and held off a valiant comeback to secure the big win, playing like they truly understood that a game 7 back in San Antonio was too dangerous a proposition. Oklahoma is now headed to the Western Conference Finals where they will face the Golden State Warriors. But before we get into that, let’s examine the details of their series clinching win in game 6.

 

The stars shined

thunder KD 2

 

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook look like the best one-two punch in the league. Durant had 37 points, 9 rebounds and hit all 12 of his free throws. Westbrook had 28 points, 12 assists and was also a perfect 6 for 6 from the line. If you are going to win then your best players need to come up big and that’s exactly what happened. There were many times during the past where this duo has not always meshed together. But no longer. They are sharing the ball and forcing opposing defenses to pick their poison. Double one star and the other will gash you. Try and lock down both and you leave super easy buckets for the other starters. If KD and Russ keep up this pace then they have a legit shot at a title.

 

Spurs showed their age

Beyond Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs seemed just a bit slower. Tim Duncan wasn’t much of a factor until too late and Parker and Ginobili weren’t creating as normal. Ibaka’s block on Duncan’s slam late in the 4th was a telling moment. Maybe we are finally seeing the end of this power trio that has dominated the NBA over the last decade. San Antonio is a powerhouse organization and they will retool as needed but the vets of the Spurs were no match for the young guns of the Thunder. I could see coach Popovich and company recruit another all star in the offseason to join Leonard and Aldridge. This could be the new ‘Big Three.’ Only time will tell. Either way, hats off to Tim Duncan, a class act and an all-time great.

 

Thunder role players stepped up

THUNDER SPURS BASKETBALL

 

Adams, Ibaka and Roberson all had big contributions on both sides of the court. Each time OKC needed a play, there was a block, steal, or offensive rebound that kept the Thunder playing with a lead. It’s these extra possessions and baskets that make the Durant and Westbrook team so lethal.

 

Now the Thunder move on to meet MVP Steph Curry and the red hot Warriors. If Oklahoma is to advance to the NBA Finals then they need to aggressively guard the three point line and keep their foot on the gas pedal. I expect some high scoring games with the league’s best on display. This could be KD and Russ’ last series together as Durant may walk in free agency. The ‘last ride’ theme is fueling this squad and they have all the tools needed to claim a trophy. I truly like this Thunder team and I would enjoy seeing them win a title but I just can’t pick anyone to beat Golden State with a healthy Steph.  

 

 

Warriors in 6.

 

 


5 Most Disappointing Players in Fantasy Basketball

Written by :
Published on : April 11, 2016

 

As you know, the 2015-16 regular season is sadly nearing its end and so is the trash-talking and nail-biting nature of fantasy basketball. Some teams have reached great heights and others — buried under injuries, but maybe you had high expectations for your squad and those expectations weren’t quite met, so you spent the majority of the season raging and cursing players out on social media.

 

Anyhow, here’s a look at some of the players who might’ve not produced as much as you expected:

 

Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert

 

What may have seemed like a breakout for the long athletic big man toward the end of the 2014-15 season averaging 10.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in between months February and April translating into 35.5 daily fantasy points, per basketball-reference.

 

The young center hasn’t seemed to build on the momentum over to this season averaging just 9.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. The reason for the let down? Gobert did miss a significant amount of time due to a knee injury back in November. Or it could be that due to such a crowded roster filled with so much young talent. Making it difficult for him to actually have a presence offensively.

 

Despite Gobert’s lack of production on some fantasy box scores, His presence is felt around the rim continuing to cast back shots that come near him. Rudy Gobert is certainly an important piece to Utah going down the road with his abilty to protect the rim and be a defensive anchor for the young and surging Utah Jazz.

 


Monta Ellis

Monta Ellis

 

The 30-year-old vet is definitely well traveled around the league. He makes most of his money being an instant offense scorer. For the most part averaging around 18-20 points per game in his career, this season has come a little differently to the 6’3″ guard, averaging just 14.2 points with the Indiana Pacers.

 

This chapter in Ellis’ career has come as a surprise to loyal fantasy owners who usually look for his 20 point game outings, but that hasn’t been the case this year.

 

After declining his $8.3 million option with the Dallas Mavericks and agreeing to a four-year deal with Indiana, Ellis joined a team with NBA star Paul George who is already quite the scorer. Not to mention playing for a defensive oriented coach in Frank Vogel might just inadvertently take away some of his scoring opportunity. Of course it could be a number of things to factor in, but bottom line, Ellis let some people down.

 


Kenneth Faried

Kenneth Faried

 

After making an appearance in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, many thought the “Manimal” was due for a breakout year.

 

With Brian Shaw and his half-court offense out, the new more fast paced offense should be more suitable for his style of play. The athletic forward was projected one of the players bound to have a great year around numerous fantasy basketball outlets. Sadly, there’s a reason he’s on this list. Faried has struggled greatly this year and has failed to stay consistent, mainly due to his series of back injuries reoccurring all season long.

 

The 26-year-old was subject of trade talks around the deadline, so it’s interesting to see whether Denver values him as a piece moving forward. It’s also intriguing to fantasy league owners to see if a different environment will cause him to be more productive, until then, it is hard to say whether or not to be patient with the young athlete. “The Manimal” doesn’t have much of a solidified offensive game to have faith in yet.

 


Serge Ibaka

ibaka

 

Going into this season, the 26-year-old may have been too overvalued. Ibaka, a year removed from a knee procedure, is having quite an underwhelming and inconsistent season thus far, averaging 12.7 points 6.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. With his noticeable drop in averages from his best season (’13-’14)  when he averaged 15.1 points 8.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks, the elite shot-blocker doesn’t play with the same passion and intensity as he did a couple years back, seeming lackadaisical out there on the court.

 

Despite the issue of enthusiasm, it may not be his fault totally. A teammate of his, Russell Westbrook, has been playing out of his mind as of late, having an Oscar Robertson-like season racking up triple-double after triple-double.

 

Even with the regressed play of Ibaka, the Thunder don’t look to be slowed down one bit. Being carried by two of the best players in the league, the Oklahoma City Thunder stand at the 3 seed in the western conference.

 


Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay

 

While never being an all-star, the 6’8″ forward out of the University of Connecticut has been quite the scorer over his nine years in the league. Averaging 18.4 points and 5.9 rebounds for his career, the 29-year-old hasn’t seen too many shots he hasn’t liked. But the problem this year which translates to his fantasy basketball production is that he’s not seeing too many shots, period. New teammate, point guard Rajon Rondo is a pace-controlling player who plays with the ball in his hands.

 

While labeled a “true point guard” and facilitator, Rondo is a player who spends a lot of the shot clock “reading” and evaluating the defense. Okay, being really nice right now. If you want it in simpler terms, Rondo has a lot of possessions where he may dribble the air out of the ball for 14 seconds which ultimately takes shots away from Rudy Gay.

 

This season, Gay is averaging 17.1 points a game, the lowest he’s ever scored in a season and 2 shot attempts less than before Rondo arrived in Sacramento.

 

 


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