Tonight’s Game 7 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors has the makings to perhaps be the most important game in the NBA in recent history.
This game has storylines galore — the 73-win Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry’s injury riddled playoff run, Klay Thompson’s historic shooting array, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s unbelievable playoff run, the clutch gene, Billy Donovan’s reputation, etc. But far beyond the fact that tonight is Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals and the winner will advance to take on Cleveland, the fact still remains — there is so much more at stake.
Legacy is impacted every year in the playoffs and even more in Game 7 scenarios, but tonight, more than ever, has the potential to have a shattering impact on the foreseeable future of the NBA.
After winning 73-games in the regular season, it’s hard to imagine the Warriors being doubted in just about any scenario. But that’s just where the defending champions found themselves after four games of this series. The Warriors were starring down the barrel of a 3-1 deficit after watching both Durant and Westbrook go super-sayan mode through four games.
But in history defying fashion, the Warriors regrouped. They’ve taken two straight, one at home and one in Oklahoma City, and are big favorites to win Game 7 tonight. If the Warriors win tonight, they will have done something that only nine other NBA teams have ever done — overcome a 3-1 series deficit.
A second aspect from Golden State’s perspective: Do the Warriors have to win the championship to validate their 73-win regular season? This question has been discussed for months, but for the third time in three games — we might have the chance to find out. Old school ideology says yes. Others say winning 73 games is enough to crown them the greatest team of all-time. Just know that the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, much like the rest of us, will be eagerly watching tonight.
I can’t emphasize how much is at stake tonight for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder have the chance to bury the winningest regular season team in NBA History on the road. They have a chance to advance to the NBA Finals with two of the top five players on the planet in their primes. They have a chance to silence the doubters and do the impossible.
But more than that, and it pains me to even consider it — tonight, however likely or unlikely you believe it to be: This could be the last time we ever watch Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant play alongside each other. It’s hard to fathom how two of the top five players in the world could part ways on purpose, but that’s a distinct possibility if the Thunder lose tonight.
Going up 3-1 seemed like a God-send for Thunder, but if they finish the collapse tonight, I find it at the very least possible that Durant would consider going elsewhere. Thus would be the end of perhaps the most interesting teammate to teammate, contrasting personality to contrasting personality NBA tandem of our generation.
Aside from the theoretical Durant-Westbrook break-up on the horizon, Durant has a chance to etch his name in the stone of NBA greats.
Every NBA legend had a defining moment in their career where skeptics became believers and fans knew they had just watched something special. Tonight, Durant has the chance to do just that.
LeBron James had one of his defining moments in 2012 (against Durant and Westbrook) when he went for 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists to clinch his first title. Curry cemented his place in history after becoming the first unanimous MVP selection. Tonight, Durant has the chance to prove the skeptics wrong. He has a chance to do the unthinkable — defeat the 73-win Golden State Warriors on the road in The Oracle. He has a chance to become immortal.
I can’t believe that I’m actually typing this…
I think Oklahoma City will win. I don’t know why. Maybe the one-two punch of Westbrook and Durant will be too much for Golden State. Maybe OKC will out-scrap and out-physical the defending champs. Or maybe, just maybe, Durant will bury those fourth quarter/clutch-game demons, like LeBron once did, once and for all and ascend into NBA glory.
Tonight should be a rollercoaster. Let’s enjoy the ride.