I am facing an inherent struggle today and it's not just my body rejecting the notion that a long weekend full of alcohol consumption and self imposed physical abuse is finally over. The struggle I am facing on the most dreaded of mornings is deciding whether my energy should be focused into praising the Golden State Warriors for climbing all the way out of 3-1 series hole, or if it should be spent talking about how I am not surprised that they did. I am instinctually inclined to say that winning three straight games with your back against the wall - against a team as talented as the Thunder - is a milestone accomplishment, but the history books don't exactly back up the notion that's it's as unlikely as we are making it out to be. It's now happened 10 times in NBA history, and the first nine undoubtedly didn't come at the hands of (mathematically speaking) the best basketball team of all time. As far as wow factor is concerned, it's exponentially more shocking that the Warriors were on the brink of elimination than it is that they were able to stand their ground at that brink.
If you want to look at just the context of this series then yes, the turnaround the Warriors showed from getting blown out of the building twice in Oklahoma City to winning three straight was fairly remarkable. That said, they were still the same team that won 73 games coming off a championship. They were still the same team that won 24 games to start this season. They were still the same team that lost TWO games at home the entire year. The last thing anyone should have been doing was counting them out. Especially since the NBA is a league that affords multiple teams almost diabolical home court advantages. Almost everyone had Golden State pegged to bounce back and win Game 5 at home, and they were most assuredly the favorite to win a Game 7 at home. The Thunder pissed away an opportunity to close out the series on their own court in Game 6, but was their lead really that insurmountable if they were only expected to win one of the three games they lost and that game required a historical effort from long range by someone other than Steph Curry?
Let's face it - as unstoppable as they looked at times - the Thunder had proven over the course of the year to be vulnerable to late game meltdowns. No one should have let the recency bias of watching them mow down the Spurs and roll through Golden State in games 3 and 4 fool them. Not when they finished about 10-15 wins short of where they are apparently capable of in the regular season. Not when they have two superstars that have never quite figured out how to share the ball in the most efficient way. The Thunder convinced everyone - themselves included - that they had changed, but what we saw last night while their season hung in the balance was them reverting back to an attitude and a style of play that plagued them all season. They certainly made some strides throughout this postseason but Oklahoma City Thunder proved that - regardless of what we have seen the last few weeks - they aren't a team without flaws, and that's why got shown the door by an opponent that finished the season 18 games ahead of them in the standings. Not because that opponent accomplished some impossible feat by playing an unbeatable brand of basketball.