Programming note: Watch Warriors Playoff Central today at 4:30pm on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
OAKLAND – Ticking off the hours and minutes before tipoff of Game 1 of the Western Conference, here are four keys, one for each quarter, to the Warriors-Thunder series.
1) Stephen Curry vs. Kevin Durant
They probably won’t spend more than a possession or two in close contact, yet each is the best player on his team and therefore capable of setting a tone. There is a reason they’re the most recent MVPs.
Why: Because whomever is more effective offensively will light up his arena, embolden his teammates and, moreover, force adjustments from the opponent. If they offset each other, it’s advantage Warriors.
2) Warriors ball security
Though they sometimes punish themselves by committing turnovers, the Warriors have, for the most part, done a nice job limiting them in the postseason. They’ll need to continue that in this series.
Why: Because turnovers, particularly in the open court, ignites an opponent’s transition game, and no team in the league races to the rim better than OKC. And it’s not just Russell Westbrook and Durant. Dion Waiters has found a home, and centers Steven Adams and Enes Kanter both run well enough to stay involved.
3) Westbrook’s brain
After a reckless start in the conference semifinals, he settled in and generally played smarter basketball against the Spurs. It paid off, as the Thunder won four of last five games to take the series.
Why: Because he is as electric as any player in the league, including Curry, but Westbrook also is the ultimate feast-or-famine player, capable of lifting his team to victory or, if he goes into selfish mode, sticking a pin in the OKC balloon.
4) The Glass
The great Pat Riley coined many phrases, including “no rebounds, no rings.” It’s still true, if slightly, less in today’s NBA, and the Thunder are the best rebounding team going.
Why: Because much was made of the Warriors win at OKC on Feb. 27 despite being outrebounded by 30 (62-32). Curry in that game made 12 3-pointers and the Warriors forced 23 turnovers, something they know they can’t expect to repeat.