In the Western Conference semifinals, Thunder coach Billy Donovan found success with a big lineup that included both Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. That duo spent a total of five minutes on the court together in their three regular-season meetings with the Warriors, but given their success on the glass against the Spurs (offensive rebound rate of 43 percent with both on the court), don’t be surprised if Donovan continues to experiment with a big lineup.
No matter how Donovan matches up with the Warriors, he will have to find a way to stop the most efficient pick-and-roll offense in the league. The Warriors are averaging a league-best 1.05 points per direct pick, including 1.10 with Curry as the ball handler. Against the Thunder, Curry’s most common defender on these plays was Russell Westbrook, whom he torched for 1.16 points per direct pick. Taking it a step further, in the fourth quarter and overtime against OKC, when the Warriors mounted three big comebacks, they averaged 1.6 points per direct pick with Curry running point.
Ultimately Golden State’s ability to win the series will come down to its shooting. Every team is reliant on efficient shooting for its offensive success, but the Warriors have been one of the three most dependent teams in the NBA. Similarly, the Thunder are one of the four most dependent teams on limiting their opponents’ shooting efficiency for their defensive success.
Most of the Warriors’ losses this season can be explained by their missing shots they normally make. The quality of their shots were not significantly different in their wins when compared to their losses, but their shot making ability (or qSM), which accounts for the difficulty of shots and shooter skill, is highly correlated with their offensive success. Although the Thunder can’t simply hope that the Warriors will go into a series-long slump, they have improved their defense in the playoffs and have the shot makers in Durant and Westbrook to rival the Warriors.
If the Warriors can make shots and control the defensive glass, they should be difficult to beat, but if the regular season is any indication of the type of series we can expect, the defending champs will be tested against the Thunder.
It’s what they wanted.
An exhausted, yet stoic, Dwyane Wade could finally admit as much as he slowly walked out of Air Canada Centre on Sunday evening to board the team bus for the dreaded flight back to Miami. The preferred option on the Miami Heat’s open itinerary was a trip to Cleveland for the Eastern Conference finals.
Wade and LeBron James communicated about the possibility they would match up as rivals only two seasons after they broke up as teammates in Miami. Together with the Heat, Wade and James won two NBA titles and advanced to four trips to the NBA finals in as many years.
Earlier Sunday in a text message, James wished Wade luck going into the Heat’s showdown in Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors. By the time it ended, with the Raptors rolling to 116-89 victory to eliminate the Heat, all James could offer Wade was consolation.
“I tried to get us there,” Wade said through a fatigued smile of moving on to Cleveland. “I did what I could. I don’t know how much I would’ve had left when we got there. But it would’ve been awesome.”