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NBA Playoffs: Preview and Predictions for the Western Conference Finals

NBA Playoffs: Preview and Predictions for the Western Conference Finals
Kevin Durant guards Stephen Curry. | J Pat Carter/Getty Images

Even with all the excitement that has taken place during the 2016 NBA Playoffs, there’s a universal feeling that an NBA Finals rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors is inevitable. We’re not here to suggest that won’t happen. Truth be told, no one knows for sure.

However, there’s one thing that we do know; the Dubs can’t simply coast into the next round. Not if the Oklahoma City Thunder have anything to say about it. In what has a chance to be the most exciting series so far in these playoffs, the Dubs and Thunder will duke it out for Western Conference Finals supremacy.

Despite the fact that Golden State swept the regular-season series between these two teams, OKC is peaking during the postseason — easily playing their best ball of the year. In the playoffs, as Kevin Garnett would say, anything is possible. But while we can’t see the future, here’s how we see the Western Conference Finals playing out.

Breaking down the Warriors

NBA Playoffs: Preview and Predictions for the Western Conference Finals
Klay Thompson and Draymond Green celebrate. | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors enter the Western Conference Finals after a hard-fought five-game series against the Portland Trail Blazers. To the untrained eye, a 4-1 series victory might look like a breeze, but the series was a lot closer than the scoreboard suggests, and the truth is that Portland made the Warriors work for it. And they showed plenty of resolve in doing so.

While back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry may have returned from an injury to set some postseason overtime history, the true star for Golden State during this series was Klay Thompson. With the Dubs desperately needing someone to step up and carry the scoring load, the less-heralded Splash Brother shot 49.5% from the field, connected on 50% of his three-point attempts, and averaged 31 points per game.

Of course, Thompson was hardly the only Warriors player lighting up the stat sheet, as All-Star Draymond Green also went to work; he averaged 22.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 1.8 steals per contest. Despite not being at full strength for the majority of the series, Golden State still managed to average 118.6 points per game and finish with an offensive rating of 117.3.

If you ask us, this just goes to show that when Golden State is playing its game, this group is almost unstoppable. Unfortunately, if there is one team in the Western Conference that may actually be able to prevent that from happening, it’s the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Breaking down the Thunder

NBA Playoffs: Preview and Predictions for the Western Conference Finals
Russell Westbrook celebrates hitting a three-pointer. | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Most believed that the Warriors and Spurs were destined to meet in the Western Conference Finals. Yet, clearly someone forgot to tell the Thunder that. For, after getting smoked 124-92 in Game 1 of its semifinals matchup, OKC won four of the next five games to eliminate a San Antonio squad that reeled off 67 wins in the regular season. And in case you didn’t already know, superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were the ones leading the way.

Despite neither player shooting over 30% from three-point range, Oklahoma City’s dynamic duo were simply too much for an aging Spurs team to handle. K.D. played just under 41 minutes a night and averaged 28.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and four assists per game, while Westbrook provided 25.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 10.5 assists in just under 37 minutes a game.

Because of their athleticism, energy, and most importantly, length, the Thunder dominated the glass and kept the Spurs out of rhythm for most of the series. And if they could pose this sort of challenge to San Antonio, then there’s no reason why the Thunder can’t do the same to Golden State.

The outcome

NBA Playoffs: Preview and Predictions for the Western Conference Finals
Stephen Curry celebrates during the Western Conference semifinals. | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Say what you will, but this series is going to come down to the overall health of Chef Curry. Sure, the Thunder have the talent and size to disrupt the passing lanes and give the West’s No. 1 seed fits, but it’s hard to overlook what the Dubs have been able to accomplish on both ends of the floor throughout this postseason.

Golden State leads the league in scoring (114.3 PPG), field goal percentage (48%), and assists (27.1 RPG) while limiting the opposition to just 40.6% shooting from the field. And most of this has been done with Curry on the sidelines. Should his health become a concern, then the Thunder have a chance to pull off the upset. However, we just don’t see that happening. We see Curry and the Warriors back in the Finals, looking to defend their crown.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors in six games

Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com, ESPN.com, and NBA.com.