The main story-lines defining the Oklahoma City Thunder going into playoffs was the 14 blown 4th quarter leads, mediocre coaching, and of course the impending free agency of former MVP Kevin Durant. However the Thunder have somehow been able to reverse these trends, starting with their second round series against the San Antonio Spurs. Game 4 of the series was when things started to materialize, despite the struggles Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant faced earlier in the game. It was in the 2nd half, Billy Donovan started to put Kevin Durant in easier scoring situations, as well as using a “twin towers” lineup with Enes Kanter and Steven Adams that not only helped offensively but also defensively. Kevin Durant ended up scoring 29 point in the 2nd half, and 17 in the 4th quarter, while Steven Adams himself dominated his match-up against Tim Duncan, this was actually not only the first time Tim Duncan failed to score in a playoff game but he also didn’t play in the 4th quarter. This was the game that they were able to not only come back from a 4 point deficit, but behind KD, Dion Waiters, and even Enes Kanter they took and protected their lead. To top it all off the Thunder only allowed the Spurs to score 16 points 4th quarter, while they scored 34. In Game 5 it was a role change as we saw Russell Westbrook dominate the second half scoring 21 points of his 35 final points. The game was a defensive battle throughout, the Thunder dug in and allowed the Spurs little leeway for mistakes on both ends. Thanks to the Thunder length and athleticism the Spurs only shoot 39.8 percent on the night, as well as winning rebounding battle 54-36. The Spurs also struggled in the 4th quarter, shooting 6-21 in the final frame as the Thunder shot 10-18 on their end. In Game 6 the game started out well initially for the Spurs, as they a 16-10 lead at one point but the slim lead didn’t last. The Thunder inserted their defensive will, as the Spurs bench and key players like Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard shrunk away from the monumental moment. The Thunder went on a 17-2 run in the second quarter and entered the second half with a 23 point cushion. Of course the Spurs would go on a 20-6 run to shrink the lead down after being down by as much as 28. They eventually trimmed the lead down to 11 but that was as close as they would get as Russell Westbrook hit a 3 to end any hopes the Spurs had.
In Game 1 of the Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors,(who by the way beat this same Thunder team 3 teams) proved to be up to the hype it gathered pre game. In the first half the Warriors were great, sustaining their two-way greatness by following their patent of creating turnovers and hot shooting from Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. Although there was a double digit the OKC Thunder were able to survive the onslaughts that so often demoralize teams. They began the 2nd half with a 13 point but the Thunder came out with a new resolve. Billy Donovan made some quick halftime adjustment which allowed the Thunder to hold the Warriors to 42 points in the 2nd half. In addition to the lack of turnovers, Billy Donovan also played Enes Kanter and Steven Adams together, although having the two big men in at the same time didn’t help the offensive spacing, the duo was more than able to hold their own on the boards and defense. Other role players like Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson played a key role in holding the Warriors to their lowest 2nd half of output of the season. The most important detail about the 3rd quarter is the huge 19 point explosion Russell Westbrook had to help the Thunder get back into the game. Kevin Durant despite his own struggles hit a huge jumper at the top of free throw line with 30.7 seconds left at the game. The Thunder were able to extend their defensive dominance of the 4th quarter and held the Warriors to 14 points.Them being able to force such bad looks and bad decisions from the Warriors was the key reason as to why the pulled away with a confidence boosting win.
Although it was just Game 1 this result of this win will go a long way in helping the OKC Thunder gain more confidence in themselves and Kevin Durant possibly signing another contract with the only team he’s known in his professional career. Stay tuned here to get more anaylsis of the Western Conference Finals as well as the Eastern Conference Finals