Thunder aren't collapsing; Warriors have taken control of series by force

In the short-attention span and overreaction theater that dominates the NBA playoffs, there always has to be a good guy and a bad guy.

Someone always has to collapse. Or choke.

Remember when the Thunder lost Game 2 at home against Dallas in the first round, and everyone thought Kevin Durant was going to start holding free-agent meetings as soon as the post-game press conferences were over?

Remember when Oklahoma City got embarrassed by the Spurs to the tune of 32 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, and everyone thought Durant would break the rules and opt out of his contract at the end of the third quarter?

The Durant-is-leaving-if-the-Thunder-lose theory should have gone out the window when OKC eliminated the Spurs. It should have been banished from our vocabulary as soon as the Thunder took a 3-1 lead on the defending champion Warriors, a team that won more regular-season games (73, in case you forgot) than any other team in NBA history.

And so now that the best regular-season team we've ever seen, not to mention the defending champions, went to Oklahoma City and took Game 6 -- and make no mistakes, with Klay Thompson shooting 11 of 18 from 3-point range for 41 points, they took it -- I don't want to hear about collapses or chokes.

The Warriors won Saturday night, 108-101, because they are simply one of the best teams that's ever stepped onto a court in the NBA. That's why they outscored the Thunder 33-18 in the fourth quarter. It's why they came back from an eight-point deficit with 9:04 left and a five-point deficit with 4:48 left.

That's why Thompson went nuts and Stephen Curry started to look like Stephen Curry again. Because that's who he is (His line: 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.)

They did this in Oklahoma City, where they'd been thoroughly beaten and completely embarrassed in Games 3 and 4. Who saw that coming? Nobody, maybe, but so what?

The point is, the Warriors did it. The Thunder didn't give it away.

Don't believe me? Please explain how the Thunder went from being a 55-win team that supposedly had no chance against the 67-win Spurs or 73-win Warriors to being a team that is on the verge of what is perceived as one of the biggest collapses in NBA postseason history?

Because that's how it has to be. There has to be a villain, and it's easy in the emotional aftermath to point the finger at the Thunder.

And suddenly it becomes so easy to forget they were trying to eliminate the defending champs, the two-time reigning MVP and the team that has etched its name in the history books.

The truth? The truth is these are two of the elite teams in basketball playing an absolutely epic series. The team that has played better has won each game, and the same will hold true Monday night in Oakland -- after which there will be no more games to play for one of them.

Who will it be? The beauty is, we do not know. Dominating Games 3 and 4 at home did nothing to bolster the Thunder's chances of winning Game 6 and advancing to the Finals. Nor will finding a way to survive in Game 5 at Oracle have anything to do with what happens in Game 7.

The crazy thing? The lazy, easy, uncontested layup of an angle through these playoffs has been to blame the Thunder's flaws for the possibility of losing Durant as a free agent. And do you know what? No one is more responsible for the fact that the Thunder aren't already game-planning for the Cavs than Durant, who missed 21 of his 31 shots and 7 of his 8 3-point attempts. Russell Westbrook was mostly brilliant, but missed 17 of his 27 shots -- including all five of his 3-pointers -- and had five turnovers.

Those are tactical and strategic failures. Nothing more.

Despite the two blowouts in Games 3 and 4, if you're wondering how close this series really is, consider this: The Thunder made two more baskets than the Warriors did on Saturday night, and still lost by seven.

Did they collapse? Not yet. Not unless Game 7 has already happened.

And guess what? The team that plays better on Monday night will win, and advance to the NBA Finals. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?

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The Warriors and Thunder are giving us a Western Conference finals to remember. USATSI
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Ken Berger began covering the NBA when Kobe Bryant was a rookie. Somehow, he'll outlast him. Ken has multiple top-10 finishes in the APSE writing contest and one championship to his credit - the 2015 Metropolitan... Full Bio

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