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Thunder Threat: The Golden State Warriors

In three games between the Thunder and the Golden State Warriors during the 2013-14 season, we were treated to some of the best basketball of the year with two of the games ending on buzzer beating game winners. On November 14th in Oakland, the Thunder thought they had an improbable road win after taking the lead for the first time since the start of the third quarter when Russell Westbrook hit a pull-up three pointer with 2.3 seconds on the clock. Andre Iguodala however, had another idea. On the following play he received the inbounds pass along the right baseline, rose up, and knocked down a cold blooded buzzer beater to send the Thunder home crying. Fortunately for Westbrook and OKC, they wouldn’t have to wait long for their revenge. Only two weeks later in another nationally televised game, Westbrook would knock down a miraculous buzzer beater himself, giving the Thunder an overtime victory. As if the first two games weren’t good enough, the rubber match of the series may have been the best, for Thunder fans that is. On January 17th, in yet another nationally televised game, the eventual NBA MVP put on a show. With Russell Westbrook out after having a third knee surgery in less than a year, Kevin Durant put the team on his back. In 43 minutes and on 28 shots, Iceberg Slim dropped a season high 54 points and carried the Thunder to a 127-121 win.

Heading in to the postseason, it’s safe to say that anyone in their right mind was hoping for a series between the Thunder and Warriors after the excitement of their three regular season games. They were lined up to play in the conference semifinals if all went well in the opening round. OKC did their part in taking care of the Grizzlies in seven games but the Warriors were unable to hold up their end of the bargain, falling to the Clippers.

Shortly after being eliminated, the Warriors fired controversial head coach Mark Jackson. Although very popular among the players, there were rumblings all season long that ownership was not happy with Jackson and would likely look to move in another direction unless Golden State made a deep playoff run. When the team was eliminated in the first round, it seemingly made it even easier for ownership to justify the move and the team moved on from the Jackson era that had seen tremendous improvement from the previous regime.

After a few weeks of searching, Steve Kerr was hired as the next coach of the Warriors. Kerr, a five time champion with the Bulls and Spurs during his playing career and former front office executive with the Suns, had been working as an analyst on the TNT NBA broadcasts. He was looked at as one of the marquee coaches on the market and is expected to take the extremely talented Warriors offense to the next level that Jackson simply couldn’t (or wouldn’t) reach because of his commitment to defense.

The rest of the offseason for the Warriors is looked at as somewhat of a failure. They lost out on the Kevin Love sweepstakes because they were unwilling to part ways with young shooting guard Klay Thompson. Although Thompson is a nice player, many believe he lacks the upside of Love because of his limited offensive game. The only major move Golden State made was signing former Nets combo guard Shaun Livingston. This may not be looked at a game changing addition but it will help them match up with the Thunder and other teams that have effective two point guard lineups.

The Warriors are heading in to the 2014-15 season with title hopes once again. There is no debating that the team has the talent to make a serious run, but in the loaded Western Conference it will be tough for a team with a first year coach to be legitimate contenders.

Nonetheless, we can expect at least a couple more “instant classics” as these two teams will match up four times this season.

Check back in to in the next few days for more of our “Thunder Threats” series.

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