When facing the best backcourt in NBA history, no 3-1 lead is safe.
The Oklahoma City Thunder learned that tough lesson in the 2016 Western Conference finals. The Warriors record-setting 73-win team was on the brink, but leaned on the Splash Brothers to become the 3rd team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a conference finals series.
OKC and Golden State battled in the best game of the 2015-2016 regular season, an epic back-and-forth game that produced a signature moment in Steph Curry’s career.
“Bang. BAAAAAANG. Oh what a shot from Curry!”
Curry’s 12 3-pointers tied an NBA record and stoked the rivalry. The Hall of Fame reel in Springfield for Steph and Mike Breen will likely have that legendary moment featured prominently.
And this series was the birth of a playoff phenomenon: “Game 6 Klay”
Klay Thompson poured in 41 points and hit 11 3-pointers in OKC to carry the Dubs to a win and force a decisive Game 7 back at Oracle arena.
Klay had a similar breakout performance in 2018 against Houston to force a Game 7 that the champions again prevailed.
But in Game 7, it was Steph’s turn. The league MVP matched his regular-season heroics with a game-high 36 points and drained 7 threes. Klay added 21 on 6 triples and the Warriors advanced.
In retrospect, it’s amazing that there was this much drama in one playoff series. The end of the KD era in OKC meant the start of his dominant run with Golden State. The Warriors would go from the joy of erasing a 3-1 lead to relinquishing one to LeBron on the Cavs just weeks later. The Russ-KD feud was ignited – as Durant went on to consecutive NBA Finals MVPS and Westbrook averaged a triple-double per game for the next 3 seasons.
When NBA history is written, the Warriors will likely be conflated with the Cavs and LeBron as a big part of their championship pedigree. But the battles with the Thunder created drama, great game tape for the Hall of Fame and indelible memories.