The Golden State Warriors were flawless in the regular season, with or without MVP Stephen Curry. Things have changed, and the defending champions will be out of the playoffs if they suffer a third straight loss to Oklahoma City Thunder, when Game 5 comes at the Oracle Arena on Thursday. Thunder presently lead the best-of-seven Western Conference finals 3-1.
They might have won a record 73 games in the regular season, but they have not been able to replicate such form against the Thunder. Warriors, to a large extent depend on Curry, who has been troubled with injuries to his knee and ankle of late, and has failed to shine in the series.
It is now or never for Golden State, and Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have to stand tall against the Thunder, and claw a game back in the series. Though they might not have been scoring as well as they would have liked, they are committing silly mistakes like turnovers in abundance, which is making matters worse.
Despite such a below par performance, one cannot rule out a stunning response from the Warriors, who will be playing at home. The Warriors fans were on cloud nine after their sensational performances last year, and the regular season earlier as well, but they need to support their team to the fullest and play an important role as the sixth man.
Coach Steve Kerr is quite confident that his team can make a spirited comeback against Thunder.
''Well, it's a sense of reality staring us in the face. We're down 3-1,'' AP quoted Kerr as saying. ''Momentum can shift quickly in the playoffs. We've seen that the last couple years. Let's take care of business at home, get some momentum back and we've got a chance.''
Though the Golden State Warriors might have been unstoppable at home during the regular season, the Thunder have already registered a victory at the Oracle Arena.
They will be keen to come up with a repeat performance, dump the Warriors out, and reach the NBA final.
The way the Oklahoma City Thunder have played in the playoffs so far, one cannot rule out another victory for the visitors.
Two players needs a special mention in the series, and it is none other than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who have silenced the Warriors like no other pair in the NBA this season. Besides their offensive abilities, the two have been brilliant at the defensive end as well. Durant and Westbrook scored 26 and 36 points respectively in their last game.
With Durant and Westbrook in super confident mood, it will be difficult to stop the duo from scoring. Only one man can trump them - magical Curry. Thunder coach, Billy Donovan, still fears the home team.
''Again, we have great respect for Golden State. We know how good of a team they are. You've got to get to a place after each game - what happened in the game, what do we need to get better, what do we do well, what are some changes or adjustments we need to make - and then you've got to move into the next one,'' Donovan said.
Coming into the series, most basketball fans looked upon the Thunder as second favourite, but not their players, who knew if the they took their game to another level, anything was possible, including a series win.
If Thunder defeat Warriors in Game 5, it will be a difficult pill for the home team to swallow, ending their season with three losses in a row.
Where to watch live
Golden State Warriors vsOklahoma City Thunder NBA playoff conference final Game 5 is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET (6:30 a.m. IST, 2 a.m. BST) start. Indian viewers can watch it live on Sony Six/HD, with live streaming on Sonyliv.
Viewers in the US can watch the Golden State Warriors vsOklahoma City Thunder NBA playoff conference final Game 1 live on TNT,with live streaming on TNT Overtime.
BT Sport will provide live coverage of the NBA playoffs game in the UK, while the game can also be live streamed on Watch BT Sport.
NBA fans can also watch the Golden State Warriors vsOklahoma City Thunder NBA playoff conference final Game 1 live on NBA.com.