That’s the deficit that the previously presumed unbeatable Golden State Warriors now face in their best-of-seven Western Conference Finals playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, leaving them one loss away from the end to a season that was full of historic feats.
So, how did the Dubs get here? Easy—because a better team is manhandling them at their own game by playing fast, aggressive and locking down on defense.
Point blank: It’s time to stop making excuses for the Warriors.
Last week, as I traveled back from a trip during Game 2 of this series, one of my best friends and I were texting back and forth about Golden State. When I told him I was considering writing this exact piece, look at what he said:
THE SKIP BAYLESS OF BROBIBLE?!?!?!
Now that the Thunder have come out and outscored the Warriors 251-199 in the past two games, even I don’t seem as foolish as Bayless does each day on First Take, because Golden State’s been taken behind the shed for an old fashioned ass whooping.
Even with OKC showing, thus far, that they’re the stronger team, fans, media and even some of Golden State players are making excuses—and here’s why that has to stop.
1. Stephen Curry Isn’t That Banged Up
We all know that the reigning, two-time MVP hurt himself during Golden State’s first-round series against the Houston Rockets, causing him to miss six games throughout these playoffs.
But you know what? Curry has gone off in a number of games since returning, dropping an absurd 40 points on the Portland Trail Blazers in round two and proclaiming that he “was back,” and then doing the same on the Thunder in Game 2 of this series by going mental and scoring 15-straight points in about two minutes.
Is Curry banged up? Sure, everyone is this time of year. But is his poor play due to a lingering injury or Russell Westbrook? It’s the latter.
2. Russell Westbrook Can Eat Curry For Lunch
Russ is listed at 6’3″ and 200 pounds, while Steph’s at 6’3″ and 190 pounds, so, physically, they’re just about the same—until you realize how much more freakishly athletic Westbrook is.
I’m absolutely convinced that the OKC point guard could start at safety for every single NFL team because of the pure aggression, speed and strength that he displays on the basketball court. It’s that type of game that Curry has no chance of defending one-on-one, as he’s more of a finesse player who doesn’t welcome contact.
I said it in Game 1 of this series after Westbrook dropped 27 points—he can get whatever he wants to when he takes it to Steph, and that’s a scary sight for Dubs fans.
3. Golden State’s Asleep On Defense
The old adage “defense wins championship” still holds true—and the Warriors are far from believers in it this season.
Want to know how many points the Dubs are allowing opponents to score this postseason? 105.5. Wait, really? (*triple checks) Yep, 105.5!!
Of the 16 playoff teams this year, that ranks 13th, leaving the Warriors a team who wants to outscore everyone without doing the nitty gritty and lockdown when it matters the most.
In contrast, last year’s title-winning team surrendered just 95.5 points per game to the opposition, and that 10-point differential is feeling felt this season for sure.
4. The Thunder Might Just Be Better
For all those people who fell in love with the half-court sinking, three-point draining, uptempo fun of the Warriors, take a deep breath and grab a seat, because life isn’t over as you know it by admitting that OKC might be better.
The Thunder have proven to be the team everyone thought they were a couple of years ago now that they finally have their own thoroughbreds healthy.
When Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka are all on the court together, OKC becomes the young team thought to be the heir to the Spurs’ old man throne, displaying talent and athleticism rarely seen together.
The Warriors are superb—73 wins in the regular season proves that—but the Thunder should have never been disrespected as much as they were because of Durant and Westbrook’s skills.
Do I sound like a hater? To some of you, I’m sure I do. And can the Warriors still bounce back and win the next three games—two of which could be at home—and advance to their second straight NBA Finals? It has only been done nine times in NBA history, but, hell, they’re that talented, so of course they can.
But, just like I’ve stopped making excuses in the Eastern Conference Finals between the Cavs and Raptors—admitting that Cleveland just hasn’t found the right answer in shutting down Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan—it’s time to stop finding reasons why Golden State’s on the verge of playoff elimination and accept that their joyride may soon come to an end.