Programming note: Watch Warriors Playoff Central today at 4:30pm on CSN Bay Area, and streaming live right here.
OAKLAND – Let the scoreboard pyrotechnics begin.
When the Warriors play host Monday night to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, it will feature three perennial MVP candidates, moreover, the two most potent offenses in the NBA.
The Warriors posted a league-high 114.9 points per game while second-place OKC averaged 110.2 points. It’s the first postseason meeting between two teams averaging at least 110 points since the 1992 Portland-Phoenix conference semifinals.
The Warriors want to play fast. OKC plays even faster, if Russell Westbrook has any say. If Steph Curry is the best shooter in the league, Kevin Durant might be No. 2. The starting centers – Andrew Bogut for the Warriors, Steven Adams for OKC – are known for their, um, pointedly physical play.
Andre Iguodala is a starting-caliber forward coming off the bench for the Warriors, while Enes Kanter is a starting-caliber center coming off the bench for the Thunder.
It’s a feast for the eyes, and one of the juiciest postseason matchups in recent years.
Warriors by 7.5
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Curry vs. Westbrook: They won’t spent that much time defending each other, but these two point guards generally dictate the fortunes of their respective teams. Curry uses guile and superior long-range marksmanship to make an impact, while Westbrook relies on athleticism and a relentless drive. If one is appreciably better than the other, the series will tip in the direction of his team.
Harrison Barnes et al vs. Durant: Barnes is but one member of a platoon of Warriors, including Draymond Green and Iguodala, dedicated to making Durant work as hard as possible for every point. If Barnes can find his own offensive game – it has been invisible for all but a few minutes of the postseason – it will go a long way toward neutralizing the effects of Durant.
The Big Men: The Warriors tend to play small, while OKC relies more on size, often playing 7-foot centers Steven Adams and Enes Kanter at the same time. The battle here is much less about scoring than it is about rebounding and setting a physical tone. Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli must be up to the task for the Warriors.
Warriors: C Andrew Bogut (R adductor strain) was listed as questionable, but will start Game 1, the team announced 40 minutes before tipoff. F Kevon Looney (L hip surgery) is listed as out.
Thunder: No injuries listed.
ROAD TO THE CONFERENCE FINALS
Warriors: Defeated Houston 4-1 in the first round; defeated Portland 4-1 in conference semifinal.
Thunder: Defeated Dallas 4-1 in the first round; defeated San Antonio 4-2 in conference semifinal.
This is the first postseason meeting between the teams. The Warriors swept three meetings in the regular season and have won six of seven over the past two seasons.
“Every possession is going to be key. Defensively, we’ve got to stay focused, make them take tough shots, even though they’re probably going to make some tough ones. Rebound the ball and don’t turn it over, that’s our recipe against them. And we have to go out and execute that.” – Curry, breaking down the series