The Golden State Warriors seem unbeatable this season, especially in a best-of-seven series. So is their name already carved on the NBA championship trophy? The Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder hope there’s still some competitiveness left in this NBA season.
There was very little room for doubt left after the Warriors played the Cavaliers and Spurs last month. If the Christmas day game between the Warriors and Cavs left some questions in the air about the ability of the Cavaliers to avenge the NBA finals from last season came the 34-point destruction in Cleveland, which led to the firing of David Blatt, which might be the move that saves the season for the Cavaliers. Right now they’ve gone 5-1 following that change, and seem to actually like each other now, not to mention playing better basketball.
The Spurs were keeping up with the Warriors until they came to visit the champions and got hit by a hammer on the head. Tim Duncan didn’t play, and Gregg Popovich later said that all of their defensive success relies on Duncan being on the floor. But it didn’t matter. A 30-point loss is a 30-point loss, with all of the theories about Kawhi Leonard stopping Curry blown up in the air, as the reigning MVP and league’s top scorer finished with 37 points in just 28 minutes.
The Spurs, for now, are still undefeated at home, and after losing in Cleveland as well, seem to be overcoming the shock of losing that game. While the regular season matters little in the big scheme of things when it comes to the same matchups in the playoffs, the Warriors have built up an impressive enough portfolio to make us think that these displays of almost perfect basketball will repeat themselves in the playoffs unless something surprising happens.
Then there’s the Thunder. Third in the West at 37-13. A team that’s exciting to watch at times but also frustrating. They might be changing, but not quickly enough for some people. Kevin Durant, in a rare moment in which he and Russell Westbrook don’t openly despise the media and those asking them questions, said the Thunder won’t stop being an ISO team. They might be doing it less than before, but it’s still going to happen whether the media and some fans like it or not.
The Thunder have yet to play the Warriors (first game on February 6 in Golden State; all three opponents met the Warriors this season for the first time on the road) and see themselves as good or even better. It’s a confident, chip-on-their-shoulder carrying group in Oklahoma City, with a modified Westbrook as the catalyst. They see themselves as championship material who have been dealt bad cards and bad luck over the years, and don’t think the Warriors will be standing in their way.
And then there’s Golden State, watching the Cavaliers improved offense from above. The Thunder mostly playing fun, energetic basketball before a surprising loss halts their momentum. The Spurs licking their wounds but still playing mostly great defense. So far, everything thrown at the Warriors this season hasn’t really hurt them, not even made a dent. For the sake of an interesting playoffs, it’s better if one of these teams finds a weakness to expose.