Now that they’ve climbed a hill by knocking off the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City will have a crack at the mountain when the NBA Western Conference Finals start on Monday.
Defeating the Golden State Warriors will require a push beyond. But there are reasons for OKC to hope that they can dethrone the champions and keep this dream run alive.
If there has been a major doubt about the Thunder, it was their impression of frailty when it counts. No more.
The Spurs embarrassed them in Game 1. How the tables were turned. The manner in which they pulverised San Antonio in Game 6 should have Kevin Durant and Co believing they can surpass anyone.
It is a creed coach Billy Donovan preached from Day 1 of his reign. Entrust the process, push through the mistakes and the rewards will come. Even though they lost their three regular season clashes to Golden State by an average of 8.6, that is skewed by one blowout. And although Oracle Arena provides ample homecourt advantage for the Dubs, their rivals are a formidable 36-11 in Oklahoma City this term.
Defence has also come good for the Thunder. In their series with the Spurs, they never conceded more than 100 after their opening reverse. Having two enforcers in Steven Adams and Enes Kantor can only help as a counter-weight to the size of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green (both carrying knocks) and the interior forays of Steph Curry.
The Warriors are still 1.62 favourites to retain their championship with OKC cut to 5.00. If Curry has truly shaken off his gammy ankle, Golden State will be hard to resist.
However we know that the two-headed monster of Durant and Russell Westbrook can win games on its own. This is a series that promises to be fought to the death.
Best bet: Take the Warriors to beat the Thunder 4-3
Miami Heating or Cooling Off?
The Miami Heat sit on the brink of elimination as they attempt to overturn a 3-2 series deficit when they host the Toronto Raptors on Friday.
The margins, inevitably, will be slim. Each of the games so far have been decided by eight points or less with the Heat yet to score above 96 points.
With Hassan Whiteside definitely out, their survival could rest on the health of Luol Deng who is questionable for Game 5. His offense – averaging 7.8ppg against the Raptors – is negligible. But without his defensive chops, Miami could find it tough to control a resurgent DeMar DeRozan who exploded for 34 points in Game 5.
The Raps are worth a look at -2.5 at a generous 2.80. But with these two wearing each other down, Cleveland is now an unbackable 1.12 to win the East. The Cavs may be the real winners here.
Best bet: Go over 192.5 total points in Heat-Raptors at 2.23.