The Golden State Warriors live to fight another day. Thursday’s Game 5 was an elimination contest for the reigning NBA champions and a 120-111 victory was enough to take the Western Conference Finals back to Oklahoma City for another win-or-go-homer on Saturday.
The question is now whether the Thunder can clinch with a little pressure on their shoulders? Or will the Dubs push it to a Game 7 on their own floor?
For much of the series, it’s been peak OKC against so-so Golden State which is why Game 6 hosts are 1.79 to clinch a 4-2 upset and advance onwards to the NBA Finals.
Russell Westbrook, averaging 28 points and 11 assists per game in the five clashes to date, has been a notch above Stephen Curry. Kevin Durant has been the best big on the floor. And Steven Adams, as unlikely as it seems, has provided more energy than the Warriors self-proclaimed Energiser Bunny Draymond Green.
If Golden State wants to force a one-off decider next week, all those disadvantages must be reversed. Above all, the champs must re-discover the kind of defence that drove them to 73 wins and within reach of the greatest full season ever.
To date, the Warriors have given up an average of exactly 111 per night to the Thunder, almost seven above their mark over the campaign. And amid the adjustments, there may have to be an acceptance that their smaller Death Line-Up is no longer optimal.
Size matters. And now is the time for Andrew Bogut to play like the Number One Draft choice he once was. On Thursday, the Aussie centre chipped in 15 points and 14 rebounds. If his team are to survive, their best hope must surely be in clogging the lane to keep the overall score under control – with, if you’re keeping the faith, a punt on under 215.5 total points at 2.60 an absolute steal.
Best bet: Take Golden State over Oklahoma City at -3.5 at 2.50.
Raptors to be extinct?
Like Golden State, the Toronto Raptors have had their backs against the wall for most of the Eastern Conference Finals. And like the Warriors, they trail 3-2 and face a win-or-bust face-off with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.
Yet the Raps have held homecourt so far in the series and they’re a hugely tempting 3.05 to force a Game 7.
Much will hang on Kevin Love who has been a basketballing Yo-Yo. But with the Cavs 0-4 north of the border this season, Toronto will believe their fight is not yet over.
Best bet: Take Toronto at -1.5 over Cleveland at 3.25.