Sports

Time for a Game 7 that will shift the cosmos of the NBA landscape

Golden State’s Klay Thompson (11) shoots over Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams (12) during Saturday’s game.
Golden State’s Klay Thompson (11) shoots over Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams (12) during Saturday’s game. AP

Grab a beer – or whatever drink that best whets your whistle – and pop a bag of popcorn, because you won’t want to miss a minute of this.

An entire season comes down to 48 minutes on the hardwood for a pair of the NBA’s top teams Monday night, as Golden State hosts Oklahoma City in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. The immediate stakes of this matchup is obvious – the winner plays Cleveland in the NBA Finals that tip-off Thursday night; the loser goes home.

In a much broader scope, this pivotal game has the potential to alter the course of NBA history.

To some, the fact Golden State is even in a Game 7 is a surprise.

On one hand, due to the Warriors’ history making 73-win campaign, the fact anyone is challenging them makes little sense. But on another, less than a week ago this team was left for dead, licking its wounds and seeking answers following a 118-94 romp by the Thunder that put them in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-7 series.

What have we learned in that span, though? Aside from holding the same pursuit of putting the ball in the basket more than its opponent, there isn’t much about Golden State that is conventional in basketball terms.

The Warriors are not a strong team in the blocks, struggle at times to rebound and fire off low-percentage shots with regularity.

Doesn’t matter. They still win.

But that’s also what makes Monday’s game for Oklahoma City so important.

Expected to be the league’s next big thing only a few years back, injuries at the worst possible moment have derailed promises of playoff glory. Finally healthy, they stand a mere game from another trip to the NBA Finals.

Following a nervous, pressure-packed week for Golden State fans, it is now Thunder fans with clammy palms, realizing their team must now do something rarely done the past few years – win in Oakland.

With two of the NBA’s top players at its disposal, Oklahoma City certainly has the goods … but do they have the mental fortitude?

Soon, we’ll know the answer.

Can Djokovic finally get his “French” kiss?

Serena Williams’ greatness in women’s tennis has been well chronicled; but sometimes you must question if Novak Djokovic’s dominance on the men’s side is appreciated enough.

Once known more for a profound inability to get out of his own way, the Serbian more commonly known as “The Djoker” has become the game’s best player and an icon in the sport.

He has won 11 Grand Slam titles, flexing his muscle particularly on the hard surfaces in Australia and New York City. Djokovic also knows what greatness tastes like, clipping blades of grass from the hallowed ground of Wimbledon’s Centre Court after each of his three wins.

But for all of that, there is still something he has yet to accomplish in the game.

Winning the French Open is the biggest omission from Djokovic’s career. Three times in the past four years he has made it to the tournament final, only to fall short.

On two of those occasions, it was Rafael Nadal – arguably the master of the clay court – who was able to keep Djokovic from a Career Grand Slam. Last year seemed to be his best chance with Nadal hobbled due to injury, but men’s tennis’ No. 1 player would again fall short of his pursuit at Roland Garros, this time to another clay court whiz in Stan Wawrinka.

With Nadal and another of tennis’ greats in Roger Federer both withdrawing from the French Open, the focus again shifts to “The Djoker” and his pursuit of immortality.

By no means is his window closing, but the longer the question persists as to whether he can do it, the pressure also will build that much more.

Of note …

After a stellar run through Big South play, Coastal Carolina heads into the NCAA tournament with plenty of momentum. On Monday, the Chanticleers will find out where they will be heading for regional play. With Saturday’s 1-0 win over Liberty, Coastal Carolina moved to 44-15 on the 2016 season. … The Myrtle Beach Pelicans hit the road again following Monday’s game with Wilmington, making their way to Salem for a four-game set. The team will return Saturday for a four-game series with Potomac. … And last – but certainly not least – the Stanley Cup Finals get underway Monday with the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the San Jose Sharks. Pittsburgh outlasted Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals, winning a decisive Game 7 over the Lightning 2-1. San Jose advanced to its first Stanley Cup Finals by besting St. Louis in six games.

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @thejournalist44

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