The pressure is back on Oklahoma City
The Thunder want no parts of a Game 7 at Oracle Arena, so Game 6 is a must
It’s just one loss. That’s what the Oklahoma City Thunder will tell themselves after Thursday’s 120-111 Game 5 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, California.
We’re still in control. The Thunder still have a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals, and will advance to the NBA Finals with a win over the Warriors on Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, a building where they’ve been dominant this series.
We just need one win over two games. Considering how the Thunder have already eliminated a 67-win San Antonio Spurs team and, through four games of this series, had planted an asterisk firmly on the Warriors’ “best team ever” coronation, that’s a likely task, right?
You know what Clay Davis from The Wire would say: “Sheeeeeit.”
In a perfect world, the Thunder would have dismissed the Warriors from the postseason last night. They would have sent the defending champs home with a series of questions about the legitimacy of winning last year’s crown: Were the Warriors really that great if their path to the finals in 2015 went through New Orleans, Memphis, Tennessee, and a flawed Houston team? Had the Spurs not been upset in 2015, would a Warriors’ potential repeat even be discussed? How much different would the 2015 finals have been if the Cleveland Cavaliers had their full complement of players?
Thursday night was a must-win game for the Warriors. Saturday night stands as a must-win game for the Thunder, a game that places the team in a pressure cooker.
Win Game 6 and advance to the NBA Finals for a chance to win the second NBA title in franchise history (the Seattle SuperSonics won in 1979).
Lose Game 6, and the Thunder is faced with an almost inconceivable challenge: beating the Warriors at Oracle Arena in a Game 7.
This thing isn’t over. Who knows? We might be witnessing the NBA equivalent of Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow getting stabbed to death and, shockingly, rising from the dead.
The Thunder must avoid a Game 7, a scenario where a series defeat would rank as one of the biggest collapses in the history of sports. Stay clear of a crushing blow that would question the legacy of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
A series loss could very well lead Durant right out the door in Oklahoma City, and into the arms of a bigger-market franchise.
Since the turn of the century, three teams have lost playoffs series after being up 3-1.
Last year, the Houston Rockets came back to eliminate the Los Angeles Clippers, but we all know those other tenants of the Staples Center are cursed.
The 2006 Phoenix Suns rebounded to beat the Los Angeles Lakers, but that was a squad where Kobe Bryant was supported by players like Kwame Brown, Brian Cook and Smush Parker.
Back in 2003, Tracy McGrady had the Orlando Magic up 3-1 over the Detroit Pistons in the first round, but he was playing alongside an aging Shawn Kemp, Drew Gooden and other “not ready for the prime time” players, while Detroit had the core of a team that would win the championship the following season.
This Thunder team, however, has two of the five best players on the planet and a legitimate cast of supporting players. But they are facing a team that won an NBA-record 73 games during the regular season.
It’s just one loss … right?