The Oklahoma City Thunder have been a dominant force in the NBA’s Western Conference for the last few years, but they have not yet been able to take the step to a championship level. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will be looking to lead a now experienced Thunder squad through the playoffs, and to the franchises first NBA title.
With a few weeks to go in the regular season, the Thunder currently host a record of 52-19, and sit in second place in the West behind who else, but the San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder’s regular season has been defined by the play of Kevin Durant.
When Russell Westbrook went down earlier in the year with an injury, Durant took his game to another level as he carried the team in the absence of one of their stars. Durant seemed to effortlessly score 30, 40, even 50 points during Westbrook’s injury, and since Russell returned to the line up, Durant has continued to play at an MVP level.
This season, Durant has bumped King James from his MVP throne, and is the leading candidate for this year’s MVP award. The recently dubbed “Slim Reaper” is leading the league in scoring with 32.2 points per game. That average is four points higher than Carmelo Anthony, who is second in the league in scoring.
While many thought Russell Westbrook’s return from injury might slow down Durant, he has continued to flourish. Coming into the Thunder’s game in Dallas last night, Durant had averaged at least 35 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in three straight road games.
Despite losing to the Mavericks, Durant scored 43 points, marking his 36 straight game with at least 25 points. Nobody has had a streak that long since Michael Jordan went 40 straight in the 1986-87 season.
Player to Watch in the Playoffs
While there is no doubt that the main one-two punch for the Thunder comes in the package of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who will be that third option come playoff time. This regular season it has been Serge Ibaka, and he will need to keep up his stellar play during the postseason for the Thunder to have a chance at a title.
Ibaka has become a key piece for the Thunder as an offensive threat, as well as a protector of the rim. Ibaka is averaging a career high 15.1 points per game, while also grabbing a career high 8.7 rebounds per game. On the defensive end, Ibaka is averaging 2.6 blocks per game, which is second in the league only to the New Orleans Pelicans star sophomore, Anthony Davis.
Ibaka has been consistently knocking down perimeter jump shots this season, and if he continues to do that in the playoffs, he will bring another dimension to the championship contending Oklahoma City Thunder.
How Does Their Season End
This could very well be the year for the Thunder. Kevin Durant’s performance this year has separated himself everyone in the league not named LeBron James. If Durant continues to play at the historic level he has been, with a healthy Russell Westbrook supporting him, the Thunder definitely have a shot at winning their first title.
The Thunder will get out of the extremely competitive Western Conference to meet the Miami Heat in the finals for a rematch of their 2012 finals series. With Kevin Durant guiding them, expect the Thunder to deny the Heat a chance at immortality and a three peat, in a hard-fought six game series.
No matter who wins, upsets or no upsets, this year’s NBA playoffs are sure to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.
NBA Daily is a daily series providing commentary, predictions, and analysis of events surrounding the NBA.
Commentary By Eric Kummel