With just one more series standing between two of the league’s best teams and the NBA Championship Finals, the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder get set to meet in the Western Conference Finals, starting today (9pm ET, Monday on TNT). Here we preview the series and give our betting picks and predictions for Game 1.
This will be the fourth meeting of the two teams that finished one (Golden State) and two (Oklahoma City) in offensive efficiency during the regular season. It will pit the postseason’s 2nd (GS) and 3rd (OKC) best offensive playoff teams as well. This means that this series will be the first time since 2012 where the league’s two top offenses have met in the postseason.
To this point, the Warriors have played 10 games over their first two series, just one more than the Thunder, who needed five games to best Dallas in the first round and six to take care of the Spurs in the semifinals. In fact, it was that series against San Antonio that should have the Thunder feeling pretty good as the team reached a new level against that competition, one that no doubt they will need every last bit of against the NBA’s best team in history.
Combined Offensive Efficiency Set to Make History
There are a lot of similarities between the two best in the West teams, starting with their star-power loaded and high-intensity offenses. Both teams feature a total of five NBA All-Stars, all of which are just about locks to make the final cut of Team USA’s roster for this summer’s Olympic games. On top of that, this is a series that features the league’s past three scoring champs: Stephen Curry 2016 (pictured), Russell Westbrook 2015 and Kevin Durant 2014. All three of them finished in the top five of the MVP voting this year, which was unanimously won for the first time in league history, by Curry.
Needless to say, the talent on display in this series is quite the embarrassment of riches. How much so? Well, the two offenses have been so high-powered, so impressively excellent, that this match-up will be the best offensive clash since the 1997 Finals when Jordan’s Bulls met Malone’s Jazz. Dating back to 1974, the upcoming match-up between the Thunder and Warriors is set to feature the fifth highest combined offensive rating in the postseason.
As a result, this could end up being the highest scoring, most offensively efficient series in NBA history.
The Stephen Curry Factor
There are no X-Factors in this series, only Curry, who has shown time and again that no one can touch him on the court and no one can touch him beyond the arc. Being the first unanimous MVP is proof but look no further than this last series to really notice and appreciate the value Curry brings to the Warriors.
The basketball world nearly fell apart when in the team’s first round series against the Rockets, Curry turned his ankle. He was set to miss at least two weeks. Fortunately, the Warriors didn’t need Curry to finish off their opponents. However, it did look like they might need him against the Trailblazers. Luckily, Curry was able to return and he did so in style, scoring over 40 points in his first game back including 17 (an NBA record) of the team’s 21 total points in the overtime period of game four of the series. Curry led the Warriors to an easy five game series win over Portland and only solidified his position as the greatest player in the world, no matter what Lebron James has to say.
If Curry stays healthy and continues to be the centerpiece to the league’s top offense and one of the most reliable fourth quarter and late-game teams in the league, it is hard to see an outcome in which the Warriors don’t win their second consecutive NBA championship.
The Thunder won’t stop him. They really shouldn’t even expect to limit him. All they can do is keep their own offensive guns going as aside from Curry, it is OKC’s Durant and Westbrook who are the best scorers in the NBA.
Have the Thunder Captured the Clutch Gene?
One of the reasons the Warriors have been so good this year, one of the reasons they will go down as the best team in NBA history efficiency and otherwise, is because of their ability to play up in the closest of game situations. The Warriors finished the season with a 30-4 mark in games which were considered close, being within 10 points or fewer in the fourth quarter or five points or fewer in the closing minutes. This was the best such record in the NBA this year.
By contras however, the Thunder really struggled in this area, posting just a 22-22 record in the clutch, ranking them closer to the bottom of the league than the top. However, if the series against the Spurs was any indication, it appears the Thunder may have gotten that monkey off their backs. Against San Antonio, OKC went 3-1 in close game situations, including two wins that really showed the Thunder had turned a new leaf in that, their biggest weakness.
Against a team like the Warriors, which have embodied the so-called “clutch gene” all season and postseason long, the Thunder will need to avoid reverting to old ways if they hope to have a shot at altering the story of the 2015-16 NBA season and giving themselves a chance at that first title.
Our Preview’s Predictions: Oklahoma City Thunder vs Golden State Warriors Game 1 Betting Picks
It is fair to say that this year’s Thunder team, playing as well as they have been, are the biggest test to Golden State’s run that they will have faced in the past two years. Both teams are matched up well and both are going to look to put on offensive clinics. It could come down to the seemingly little things. Golden State’s homefield advantage or their ability to adapt and adjust could decide the series. Or perhaps it will be OKC’s heat streak and the emboldened performance of their bench alongside Westbrook and Durant.
It’s certainly going to be a battle, but at the end of the day and end of the series, it will be Golden State once again returning to the NBA Finals.
As for our preview’s game one betting pick and predictions, with the spread at -7.5pts, take the Warriors to best that mark. That’s not a slight against the Thunder but if their showing against the Spurs in game one is any indication, this is a team that gets off to a slow start. Against the aging Spurs, this didn’t hurt them, but against the Warriors, this is going to be OKC’s downfall.
- So bet on the Warriors -7.5pts @ best betting odds of -110 with 5Dimes Sportsbook. Both Bovada and BetOnline also go -7.5pts but for -115 odds.
- As for the total game points, take the under 224 @ -110 with Bovada Sportsbook. BetOnline are -105 for under 223.5pts, while 5Dimes are also under that total but at -110 odds.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.