Conference Finals Full of Surprises

Playoff basketball is wild. Playoff basketball defies expectations. Playoff basketball will make you angry. Playoff basketball will make you sad. Just ask Warriors fans.

The Conference Finals got underway last week and the Oklahoma City Thunder carried their excellent play into Oakland, where they proceeded to shock the Warriors by beating them in the first game of a seven game series, 108-102. This would not have been shocking, say, three, maybe even two years ago, but in this day and age nobody beats the Warriors in Oakland.

The Dubs responded with a win in game two, cementing their 118-91 victory early in the game thanks to strong play on the boards and a poor offensive effort from both of OKC’s studs, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Warriors, who rounded out a historic regular season and are undoubtedly the best team in basketball, looked back in control.

But then games three and four happened in OKC, and the Thunder dominated. Westbrook was a man on fire and Durant smiled while he drained turnaround jumpers and used his length to outreach the suddenly overmatched Golden State defense. The Warriors missed layups, took bad shots and turned the ball over. In other words, the Thunder looked like the better team because they played like it. Never mind how the teams’ played in the regular season, the Thunder have been the best team in the West since the playoff began. Not the Spurs, not the Warriors; the Thunder. Playoff basketball, man.

Now things get interesting. With one game left before the series shifts back to Oakland, the Warriors must win out to advance to the Finals. They are more than capable of meeting that challenge, however, they will have to deal with a Thunder team that looks poised for a championship.

Meanwhile, in the East, the Raptors have suddenly flipped the script on Cleveland by coming back to tie the series at two after back-to-back losses to start. LeBron James was his regular playoff self in the first two games, but Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were too much for the Cavs to handle in the last pair of games. The pair of Raptors helped their team hold off a furious comeback by the Cavs in game four, and now find themselves tied with a team that had not been beaten in the 2016 playoffs. Playoff basketball, man.

Will may be reached at [email protected]