The Dynasty that could’ve been, the Dynasty that was: The everlasting impact of Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals

On May 28th, 2016, Klay Thompson netted 11 3-pointers — the NBA record for most made in one postseason game. His 41 points weren’t just 41 points, every single one of them felt like the basketball equivalent of Leonardo DiCaprio crawling out of that revenant grave. Contested, end of the shot clock, all the momentum in the world working against him — it just didn’t matter, and hereby was born the legend of ‘Game 6 Klay’. While this game will forever have Thompson’s name attached to it, do not let recency bias of current events distract you from the facts of what really went on that night.

Steph was as clutch as he’s ever been

For some reason, all sports media have lead people to believe that Steph Curry isn’t a clutch player because he got locked up by Kevin Love in the 16′ Finals, or because he hasn’t won a final’s MVP yet.

Funny how these same people forget Steph’s 31/10/9 stat line, including scoring 8 of the warrior’s final 15 points. Curry put the game out of OKC’s reach with an unbelievable running-floater over, peak of his defensive powers, Serge Ibaka with 14 seconds to go. Not to mention a game leading offensive rating of 129.0

This wasn’t just the ‘Klay Game’, this was the Klay and Steph game. Every time it seemed OKC were one basket away from pulling away and putting the game to bed, Steph and Klay clawed the warrior’s back into touching distance.

The last run for the KD-Russ Thunder

Coming off a disappointing 14/15 season in which the Thunder failed to make the playoff’s, with star-man Kevin Durant out injured for the majority of the year with a fracture in his right leg, OKC looked to run it back with core that came so close to the promise land in the 12′ Finals against the Heat.

But there was a feeling of uncertainty surrounding the team, with both KD and Russ approaching the end of their contract’s, many felt this might be the Thunder’s last chance to make a championship run with their dynamic duo.

With a bumpy regular season behind them in which new coach Billy Donovan struggled to devise a cohesive offence around 2 of his star men, the thunder finished with a 55-27 record and the third seed in the west.

They made light work of the Mavs in the first round, before coming up against the mighty San Antonio Spurs, who themselves had won 67-games. After going down 2-1 in the series, the thunder completely figured out the spurs offence in game 4, and exposed its obvious shortcomings. The spurs simply couldn’t deal with the physical dominance and length of a KD, Russ, Ibaka, Kanter and Adams lineup. There was a consensual feeling around the league that this was the best version of the 15/16 Thunder, and that they would prove to be formidable opponents for the Warriors in the conference finals.

But, the combination of a injured Steph Curry, Rebound dominant OKC front-court and a lack of scoring options off the bench for the warriors, presented a perfect blend of opportunity and talent for the Thunder. The warriors simply couldn’t live with them, and the Thunder jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. The warriors kept the series alive in game 5, forcing a game 6 in Oklahoma.

This was now the Thunder’s moment, to beat the warriors who were coming off the greatest regular season ever seen in NBA history, all the momentum would be with them going into the finals against the Cavs. The journey that started in Seattle back in 2008 with the team moving to Oklahoma, was now on the cusp of delivering a historic inaugural championship to the city and possibly launching a new dynasty with both their stars expected to sign new deals if they won the championship.

But it wasn’t to be, as the Splash Bros put up an all-time offensive performance to force a game 7 in Oakland, which they went on to win and proceeded to the NBA finals. This series directly affected the landscape of the NBA, as after a title-less run with OKC, Kevin Durant decided to take his talents to another Western Conference juggernaut and start a new dynasty…. the Golden State Warriors

Drey and Dray

The 2016 warriors were lauded for their offensive production, but at their core they were a gritty and ruthless defensive team, and their defensive personality was epitomized by Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. In this series more than ever the Dubs needed both to be at their best to match the dynamism, athleticism and length of this Thunder side, while also contributing in short-spurts on the offensive end.

And they did just that, Draymond carried most of Steph’s scoring burden in the first half as the MVP looked to find his groove. He finished with 12/12/6 stat-line for the game, and his high screen pick-and-roll combinations with Steph in the 3rd Quarter were nearly unguardable.

Not to mention both of his defensive play’s at the end of the 4th Quarter, stripping Westbrook both times to set up a Thompson 3-pointer, and the memorable game clinching floater by Steph.

But the key to success for the warriors was stopping KD, and Draymond wasn’t a particularly good matchup, so Kerr put Iguodala on him down the stretch. The reigning finals MVP, did to KD exactly what he did to Lebron James in the finals just a year prior, forced him into bad-shot after bad-shot. This was probably Durant’s worst playoff game, and some of that can be credited to Iguodala, who finished the game with 8/1/7 along with 3 steals, one of which set up the iconic Curry 3-pointer to level the game 99-99

In conclusion, this game was probably a sliding-doors moment for both franchises. It marked the end of the KD-Russ Thunder, and the beginning of the dominance of the Golden State Warriors. Also no team had come back from a 3-1 deficit in the conference finals since the 1980s Celtics. Surely we wouldn’t have to wait another 35 years to see another Finals comeback…… surely.

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