5 Reasons the Oklahoma City Thunder Will Win Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals

Feb 8, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) smiles on the court in the game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Oklahoma City won 122- 106. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

In the buildup to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, we will argue in favor of both teams winning the series and heading to the NBA Finals. For the Golden State Warriors, Click Here.

  1. Golden State’s Game 6 Shooting Was Completely Unsustainable

Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry combined for 17 made three-pointers in Game 6. That probably won’t happen again. Why? Because it only happened once in the entire regular season. The pair combined for 17 once, 16 once, 15 once and 14 twice. That’s five games above 13 out of 82. Odds are it won’t happen again. In fact, in the regular and post seasons combined, the Warriors have made more than 16 three’s only 20 times. That’s less than a quarter of their total games. Even the best shooting team of all time has limits.

2.  Andrew Bogut is Wearing Down

Andrew Bogut is the only Warrior with a positive +/- in this series. He’s also playing injured, and it shows. He didn’t top 20 minutes in the first four games, but with the season on the line he suited up for a combined 56 in the last two. He was excellent in Game 5, posting 15 points and 14 rebounds on 7-of-9 from the field, but he was just flat out dead in Game 6, taking only four shots and finishing with four rebounds. Considering the injuries, it’s far likelier that we see a repeat of Game 6 than Game 5.

3.  The Warriors Still Have No Earthly Idea How to Defend Russell Westbrook

Yes, Russ is missing a lot of shots, but that’s the trade off you accept with him. His counting stats are also off of the damn charts. He’s averaged 28-11-7 in the Western Conference Finals, and he’s done it by destroying every defender Golden State has thrown at him. Klay Thompson would logically be the best defender for Westbrook, but the enormous energy consumption that would take is unpalatable on offense. The same goes for Stephen Curry, no matter how big a brouhaha the Warriors like to make about him defending point guards. The Warriors could start Shaun Livingston specifically as a Russ-stopper, but they’re struggling enough to score as it is and there’s no guarantee he’d be able to stop Westbrook anyway. There really isn’t a good matchup anywhere on the roster for him, and his shooting percentages are likely to regress to the mean after two bad games.

4. Speaking of Regression, Kevin Durant is Due for Quite a Bit of it

Durant has shot 34.9% from the field and 20.8% from long range over the past three games. That’s not just a slump, it’s completely unsustainable variance. Throughout the entire regular season, he had no three-game stretch in which he even came close to matching those dreadful percentages. In fact, there was not a single game in the regular season in which Durant met both criteria and only one in which he fell below the field goal percentage line (opening night against Kawhi Leonard and the greatest regular season defense of all time). Yes, Andre Iguodala is a spectacular defender and yes, Durant is expending more energy on defense through his constant switches than he ever has before, but this stretch is just a blip. His shooting splits should be far closer to the 50/40/90 range we’ve come to expect from him in Game 7.

5. Steve Kerr Has Been Significantly Out-Coached in this Series

Kerr’s decisions in this series have ranged from bizarre to outright terrible. He continues to play Festus Ezeli in the second half of quarters, when the Thunder are already in the penalty and can hack him ceaselessly. He’s used lineups without Curry, Thompson or Draymond Green, which is especially ironic in this series considering how much crap Billy Donovan got early in the season for not staggering Westbrook and Durant. He never bothered moving Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup despite Harrison Barnes’ struggles. It’s frankly a testament to the extreme talent on his roster that Kerr’s team hasn’t been knocked out yet. Coming into this series he looked like one of the best coaches in basketball. There’s now significant reason to doubt that.

 

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