Someone once told me that the NBA follows the narrative way more often than it should. For years, LeBron James was going to come up empty in the clutch. Kobe Bryant was going to hit the game-winner. Draymond Green would galvanize his team and they would go on a big run to win the game, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson missing zero shots down the stretch.
Heck, most of the narratives in the this year’s playoffs have been true to form. Think of what people were excited about heading into the playoffs: Clutch Damian Lillard (he was awesome in Game 1), No-Nonsense LeBron (he was awesome in the other games), Luka Doncic in his first playoffs (he was incredible against an overpowered Clippers squad, including an OT game winner), Donovan Mitchell showing up when his team isn’t playing the Rockets (yep), and Giannis Antetokounmpo being worthless in crunch time against teams that force him to create on his own (see: Game 1 vs. Orlando and Miami).
No series has been about narratives more than this one, though. I’m not going to rehash all of the storylines involved here, or how James Harden and Russell Westbrook’s legacies ride a lot on the outcome of this game. You know this, so let’s move on.
There’s a reason I picked the image I did for this preview. It’s incredibly ironic that in the season that Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni sprung their small-ball experiment, their first round opponent was a team that just happened to have three guards capable of scoring in bunches that like to drive, a defender built to slow down James Harden, and a sharpshooting stretch big.
Game 7s are always a mudfight. There’s only been a few Game 7 blowouts, and the Thunder (and let’s face it, the referees) are going to do everything in their power to make this an ugly game. After all, OKC knows that if the game is close late, they have the best clutch player in the NBA in Chris Paul and the Rockets have two players that the narratives say are choke artists.
That’s why I’m picking OKC to win tonight. I cannot trust the Rockets to win a close game, nor can I trust Houston to keep the game from being close late. I think and Oklahoma City Thunder-Los Angeles Lakers series will be incredibly boring, but maybe the Thunder can steal a game. But hey, the NBA will get their Lakers-Clippers Western Conference Finals!
Tip-off is at 8pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest and ESPN