In arguably the biggest upset of the postseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder advanced out of the Western Conference semifinals by knocking off the veteran San Antonio Spurs. On Monday night, the Thunder get another chance to play giant killers when they face the heavily favored Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the conference finals.
Following a 73-win regular season and a strong postseason, Stephen Curry and Co. continue to look like the team to beat. They are the odds-on favorite to win a second straight title, and have -420 odds to get by Oklahoma City, via BetOnline.
But the Thunder (+350) can’t be counted out against the defending champs. Oklahoma City entered their series with the Spurs as significant underdogs, and it looked like their season might soon be over after a Game 1 rout. But Billy Donovan's squad surprised the No.2 seed by winning four of the next five games, and forcing the rest of the playoff contenders to take notice.
The Thunder boast perhaps the most talented duo in the league. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both finished in the top five in MVP voting, and they’ll look to carry the Thunder to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2012. In 11 playoff games, Durant and Westbrook have averaged 52.9 points per game.
But there's more to the Thunder than just two prolific scorers. The frontline of Enes Kanter and Steven Adams often gave San Antonio fits, and how the big men match up against Golden State’s smaller lineup will be one of the series' main storylines. Both players are under 24 years old, but they looked quite experienced on the glass against the Spurs, combining for 116 rebounds in the six-game series.
With Draymond Green at center, the Warriors have one of the most well-rounded players in the league. He finished seventh in MVP voting, and second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year. In the playoffs, Green has seen an uptick in his averages (17.7 points, 10.4 rebounds), though his shooting percentage dipped from 49.0 percent in the regular season to 44.9 in the postseason.
Coming away with at least one win in Oakland should be a hefty challenge for the Thunder. The Warriors have a 6-0 record at Oracle Arena in the playoffs after a 39-2 regular-season record. However, Oklahoma City may have reason to feel encouraged. San Antonio entered the postseason with a 41-1 home record, yet Oklahoma City managed to escape with two road wins.
The Warriors are 7.5-point favorites in Game 1, and history is on their side on Monday night. Steve Kerr's squad won all four of their opening games last season, and have been perfect in Game 1s this postseason.
Meanwhile, the Warriors managed to go 3-0 against the Thunder in the regular season, and Curry is not showing any rust after his time away from the court. In the two games back from his MCL sprain, Curry is averaging 34.5 points, 9.5 assists and 7.0 rebounds.
Things might be a little different against Oklahoma City. The Thunder have looked like a team that can compete with the Warriors this postseason, and they gave Golden State trouble in the regular season. The Warriors needed overtime and a buzzer-beater from Curry to beat the Thunder on Feb. 27, and Oklahoma City almost pulled off an upset three weeks prior in Oakland.
The over/under for Game 1 is 223.5 points, via VegasInsider.com. Both teams have scored at least 106 points in each of their three matchups.
The series could be a little tighter than some expect considering the Thunder's confidence after sending the Spurs packing. However, with Curry at full strength and with Green and sharpshooter Klay Thompson causing headaches for the Thunder's perimeter defense, Golden State should advance to the finals in six games.
Start Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Online Stream: WatchTNT
Prediction: Golden State over Oklahoma City, 115-105
Here is the full Western Conference finals schedule (all games shown on TNT)
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