We are right where we thought we might be. After a Game 5 demolition, the Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves trailing 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals to the San Antonio Spurs, with Game 6 to be played at Chesapeake Arena.
The best of seven series has gone how it should, with both teams winning on their home floor but unable to snatch a victory on the road. The Spurs have homecourt advantage for the entire playoffs after finishing the regular season with the NBA’s best record, and convincingly won Games 1 and 2 on their own floor.
With the return of Serge Ibaka, the Thunder were able to snatch convincing wins in Games 3 and 4 at Chesapeake Arena, before dropping Game 5 on the road in San Antonio. Now, again facing an elimination “win or go home” scenario in Game 6, the Thunder need to ensure they defend their turf and send this series back to San Antonio for a decisive Game 7.
Chesapeake Arena has always posed a problem for opposition teams. The crowd, the atmosphere, everything leads to a huge advantage for OKC. The will need every advantage to get the win and extend the series and the Thunder fans will be out in force to ensure that happens. From the pre-game atmosphere in Thunder Alley to the in-game noise and support, Thunder fans have embraced NBA basketball and specifically their Thunder. Game 6 will be a huge moment for the team, the franchise and it’s fans.
The fact that home teams have won each and every game in this series is nothing new. It is why you try and secure the best regular season record you can – so you can play the majority of your games at home and make it difficult for the opposing team. The Spurs have that advantage and have utilized it well in this series, and with the deciding Game 7 (if required) to be played in San Antonio, the Thunder face an uphill battle.
It starts with defending their home floor.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are a solid road team. During the regular season, they had an excellent record away from Chesapeake Arena, and they have also been able to win important games on the road during the playoffs, but they haven’t been able to steal a win in San Antonio this post season. They will need to overcome that in Game 7, but they need to ensure a Game 6 win in order to get that chance.
Game 5 saw the San Antonio Spurs make some solid adjustments and counteract the effect of Serge Ibaka, something they hadn’t been able to do all series (all season in fact). They got it clicking at the right time though, and now have the upper hand. The Thunder, while being thoroughly outplayed, will take some experience from that loss and some courage about being back in OKC for Game 6.
Both of these sides would be worthy winners of a terrific series of playoff basketball and either side would relish the chance to exorcise some demons in the NBA Finals. After winning Game 5, the Spurs have put themselves just slightly ahead in the race. They don’t have to find a way to beat the Thunder at home. Worst case, they drop the next one and close it out in San Antonio.
The Thunder though, will have other plans. Defend their home court first – then find a way to break the home team dominance we have seen throughout the series.