It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. The 73-win Golden State Warriors were assured to meet the 67-win San Antonio Spurs for a shot at the NBA Finals. They were the two best teams in the regular season, and the first two rounds of the playoffs were mere formalities until they met in the Western Conference Finals.
Well, instead the league will have to settle for a monumental series between the Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder. One that will feature the last three league MVP winners, as Golden State’s Stephen Curry has won the award the last two seasons and the Thunder’s Kevin Durant earned the honor in 2015.
Following the traditional 2-2-1-1-1 format, the series opens Monday night with Game 1 at Oracle Arena, the Warriors home court, where they lost just twice in the regular season and have completely defended in these playoffs.
It’s also the same venue Golden State defeated the Thunder twice this season, and it required 46 points and a 32-foot three-pointer in overtime by Curry to defeat Oklahoma City on the road. All told, the Warriors have owned the Thunder, claiming six of their last seven meetings over the last two seasons.
And in that same span, the Warriors have overtaken the Thunder as not only the young team to beat in the West, but the one on the cusp of taking over the Spurs long-running dynasty.
After hosting his second straight MVP trophy, Curry fought through a knee injury to come back and help the Warriors punch past a pesky Portland Trail Blazers squad, while guard Klay Thompson and forward Draymond Green remain his perfect complements due to their long-range marksmanship, rebounding, and defense.
But it took Curry to put Golden State over the hump. He sat out the first three games against Portland to recover, and fired off 69 total points and 19 assists with 10 three-pointers to silence the Blazers upset attempt.
However, this Thunder squad doesn’t appear to be the same one Golden State has seen the last couple of seasons. It took knocking off Kawhi Leonard and San Antonio, with their defense, to make Oklahoma City a significant threat to the Warriors.
As the two sides prepare to meet in the postseason for the first time in nearly a quarter century (the last being when the Thunder were in Seattle), the Thunder are brimming with confidence after overpowering San Antonio in six games.
With Durant notching 28.5 points and Russell Westbrook putting up 25.2 points and 10.5 assists, the Thunder managed to beat the Spurs twice on the road and proved resilient even after losing the first game of the series by 32 points.
And the Thunder do have the bench to test Golden State. Enes Kanter’s striking 58 percent of his field goal attempts for 11.6 points and working the boards for 7.3 boards per game, while Steven Adams has also emerged as a viable frontcourt threat with 10.2 points and 9.9 rebounds.
Both stand to create matchup problems for Green, the Warriors best defender who’s often asked to guard much bigger players.
Tickets for Game 1 are available on secondary ticket sites like StubHub.com. Currently, seats on the Oracle’s upper level baseline are open for $250 but courtside passes jump to nearly $14,000.
Full Western Conference Finals Schedule
TV Channel: TNT will host the entire series
Game 1: Monday, May 16, Oracle Arena at 9 p.m. ET
Game 2: Wednesday, May 18, Oracle Arena at 9 p.m. ET
Game 3: Sunday, May 22, Chesapeake Energy Arena at 8 p.m. ET
Game 4: Tuesday, May 24, Chesapeake Energy Arena at 9 p.m. ET
Game 5*: Thursday, May 26, Oracle Arena at 9 p.m. ET
Game 6*: Saturday, May 28, Chesapeake Energy Arena at 9 p.m. ET
Game 7*: Monday, May 30, Oracle Arena at 9 p.m. ET
(*) If necessary