The Oklahoma City Thunder put their selves right back in a position to succeed after beating Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors last night 118-94 to put them one game away from the NBA Finals. Russell Westbrook had another triple-double that was led by 36 points. Kevin Durant added 26 points to the effort, but this game, this series, is not about the inside stats itself. This Thunder team is proving to the world that you can never count a team out no matter the circumstance. OKC lost the three regular season match-ups against the Warriors and the world had already put Golden State in the NBA Finals when they were slated to meet in the Western Conference Final. Westbrook, Durant, and company have always been one step or one significant move away from being a serious contender since making a Finals appearance in 2012, this year they seem like they will not be denied. Westbrook’s shooting was looking very shaky coming in to the series, but he has stepped his offensive and defensive production up in the past four games. In the three regular season games, Steph Curry went crazy, but other than that. Oklahoma City failed to close out what should have been two easy wins. Kevin Durant is driving his teammates with passion and scoring, of course, but he Thunder PG has taken Curry almost completely out of this series.
There is almost a similar incident happening in the East. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were 10-0, and cruising to what seems like another Finals appearance for LBJ. Coach Tyronn Lue tied Pat Riley for most consecutive wins in the first year with a team. Everything was going well for the Cavs: Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were producing on a high level together for the first time in a while, three pointers were falling from the supporting cast, and they were controlling the paint on a daily basis. Wins were coming quickly so the Cavs had time to rest. On the opposite end, the Toronto Raptors seemed very dejected that they finally made it to a NBA Finals, but that they were about to be put through a buzzsaw which was the Cleveland Cavaliers. The first two games were as cataclysmic as they could be. We even saw Kyle Lowry walk back to the Raptors locker room during the time Cleveland was going on a 14-2 run. After the second game, the Raptors were looking like water moccasins. Coach Dwayne Casey told the media “…we now have to go back home and take care of our home court.,” which seems like it would be easier said than done. Games three and four have been totally lopsided in favor of the boys from “The North.” Kyle Lowry and partner in crime DeMar DeRozan have turned this series around. Their combined shooting percentage has increased, but that might not be the biggest factor that matters. The Raptors lost big man Jonas Valanciunas to a foot injury earlier in the postseason, and their presence in the post disappeared. Bismack Biyombo has brought that firepower in the post that the Raptors dearly needed. Biyombo broke on to the scene in game three, he had four blocks and snagged a career-high 26 rebounds to help push his team past their counterparts. Game four, he continued his dominance, grabbing 14 rebounds and three blocks. This hard work on the glass gives guys like DeRozan and Lowry the green light to put up shots when they feel comfortable because they know they have a great chance of getting the ball back even if they miss. This freedom (or restraint) as a shooter could be the difference between not putting your heart and effort into a shot because you do not want to give the other team the ball and shooting with confidence because my teammate will get my miss. With this newfound outbreak from Biyombo, this series has completely changed. The Cavs are on the ropes and they could be on a slippery slope if they do not find their rhythm again against the Raptors.
I believe that if the Raptors play the Thunder in the NBA Finals, this would be amazing for the game of basketball. The basketball world has been dominated by LeBron James and Stephen Curry in recent years, despite Kevin Durant being the league MVP in 2014. Curry’s record-breaking and repeat MVP season has overshadowed Westbrook’s high frequency of triple-doubles and breakout performances. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were both selected to this year’s All-Star team and they are having one of the best seasons in their respective careers, but they are being overshadowed about how well the big three unit of LBJ, Kyrie, and Love are dominating down the stretch of the season. If the two underdogs, who do not believe they are underdogs, can pull off upsets, I think it gives young viewers around the world something to look up to. These are great stories of overcoming adversity to get to where they want to be. It might not be the most popular teams, but it could be the two hardest working teams playing each other in the end. As a viewer, I would love to see a genuine Finals match-up instead of the politically correct two teams playing to get the most viewers for capitol purposes. I am sure that this would be a long shot, even with both underdog teams closing in on clinching the series, but it would be a great sight to see if it did.