Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) tries to keep the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the first half in Game 6 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals in Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
The series has been everything it was billed to be—and then some. The Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City (OKC) Thunder are deadlocked, 3-3, in the Western Conference Finals with Game 7 scheduled for Memorial Day on May 30.
After building a 3-1 lead in the series, the Thunder have begun to collapse and the Warriors have started to heat up at the right moment. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have played like all-stars, but their counterparts with OKC have risen to the occasion as well. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have been the powerful tag team they so often are. It was predicted that this series would go down to the wire, and here we are. Who will win Game 7? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley debate.
Riley: I admit the Warriors had me concerned when they were down 3-1 but they’ve corrected some rebounding issues and played with more intensity. I can’t say that I’m surprised that the series is tied heading back to Oakland. When you’re dealing with the defending champs, you have to defeat them before you bury them. Several people simply wrote the Warriors off when they were down, but now Curry and Thompson have found their groove and they’ll be back in the always-electric Oracle Arena for the biggest game of the year. After ripping through the regular season with 73 wins, the Warriors needed this type of challenge from the Thunder. They took a blow and now they’re back firing on all cylinders. Golden State will win Game 7.
Green: The Oklahoma City Thunder have to be kicking themselves for even needing to play a Game 7 after being up 3-1, but they should also be encouraged. There were pivotal moments in Games 5 and 6 when the contests could have gone either way. The Thunder were up by double digits for much of the first half in Game 6 and even held a late lead in the final quarter. It’s been proven that OKC can beat Golden State, both at home and at Oracle Arena. If the team gets back to sharing the ball, trusting each other and playing strong defense then they can close out the series. Picking the Thunder originally was an easy selection because I thought the team had finally arrived and learned how to play together. They resorted back to their old ways for the past two games, but if they get back to what worked en route to that 3-1 lead, then they’ll be fine. They have the talent and the size to cause Golden State problems, they just need to regain their discipline.
Riley: There’s a reason why the defending champion Golden State Warriors won a record 73 games this season; they have the ability to turn it on, and the discipline to focus on the task at hand. With the game going back to Oakland, the Warriors are going to be in their element at a raucous Oracle Arena. It will be a true test to see if the Thunder can pull off the improbable, or succumb to the shock of losing such a dominating lead in the series. Westbrook and Durant can excite fans with superstar play, but they can also frustrate them with their bouts of head-scratching plays. I just trust the Warriors to play to their abilities, and I’m pretty confident we’ll be seeing the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in a couple of days.
Green: There’s just no way Oklahoma City is going to lose three straight games and blow their lead. They’re going to get it done. But if somehow they don’t win, there’s only one source I can point to for such a catastrophic collapse: the curse of Lil B. Five years ago, rapper Lil B, aka the Based God, levied a curse on Durant, saying the basketball player would never win the title after he disrespected Lil B’s rap skills. When the Thunder went up 3-1 in the series, Lil B tweeted that Durant is finding a way to fight through the curse. I agreed, and still do. I think Durant will find a way to have a huge Game 7 and lift his team through the curse and into the championship. It’s just unfortunate they didn’t get it done in Game 6, because now the Cleveland Cavaliers will have a little more time to rest for the NBA Finals. That rest will give them an advantage over what will be a very tired OKC team when the Finals begin.