With a little over 12 hours to reflect on one of the most monumental playoff series that has ever been played, it seems no less monumental than it did while unfolding. This Conference Finals was more than a series; it was a historical referendum on all parties involved: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, the 2008-2016 Oklahoma City Thunder and even the era as a whole.
Through 3 quarters, the Thunder were beating Golden State in rebounds, points in the paint, 2nd chance points, free throw attempts, turnovers and field goal attempts. They found themselves staring at an 11 point hole. The decisive third quarter, which featured a 29-12 Golden State evisceration of Oklahoma City, saw the Warriors go back to their roots and let Steph be Steph. Curry scored 9 points in the quarter and 36 in the game, looking himself in a series that often saw him neutralized by the towering figure of Steven Adams and the pterodactyl-esque wingspan of Kevin Durant off of OKC’s ambitious pick and roll switches. In the deciding Game 7, Curry finally punished the Thunder for daring to guard him with a big, crossing over, stepping back and firing at will, reigning down a parade of 3s over the Thunder. It was the performance the Warriors needed from Curry, who had struggled all series amid speculation of injury, and the MVP stepped up to the task.
After that third quarter, you knew. The Thunder had clung to a six-point halftime lead that felt as if it should have been bigger after outplaying, no, dominating, the Warriors for the first 24 minutes and the Thunder threw the lead away as easily as Andy Reid screws up the clock. When Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa came into the game and actually played well for Golden State with Varejao notching two assists and two points in less than 2 minutes, you knew that this was the Warriors’ night. Even when Durant tried to take matters into his own hands and brought the Thunder back within four you knew. Golden State’s win probability was still 93.2 percent, per InPredict. The very next play, Serge Ibaka fouled Curry on a 3-point attempt and the game was sealed.
Historically, it’s tough to place this series other than to say it was one of the best ever. If the Warriors beat Cleveland in the Finals, than this is the three game stretch that proved the Warriors were one of the greatest teams ever. If it turns into a dynasty than Game 7 is the defining game of that dynasty. Either way, it’s a career-defining game for Curry and Game 6 is the same for Thompson. If Durant leaves, than this is the three game stretch that caused him to do so. If he returns, than it’s the three game stretch that motivated him to do so and if the Thunder win next year’s championship, than it’s the three game stretch that motivated them to do so.
As of now, it seems unlikely that he’ll leave. The Thunder was as close as it’s ever been this season and leaving now would be like passing out 10 feet before the finish line. Other than Golden State, no other team gives Durant a better shot at winning a title. Sure, Pat Riley or Gregg Popovich could swoop in and steal him away, but what motivation does he have to leave? Signing a 1+1 deal with and opting out after next year makes too much sense. That way, Durant times his free agency with Westbrook’s and he maximizes his salary because the cap is rocketing up again after next season.
This series could ultimately prove more important to the Thunder than to the Warriors. Durant’s free agency along with the fact that this core hasn’t won a championship means that this series was Durant and Westbrook’s chance to separate themselves from that Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley group historically. They were at the finish line, and then the Warriors stepped on the gas and stole the race. If the Thunder fall short again next season, that might be it for this core.
This was an era-defining series. The Warriors proved yet again that they’re one of the best teams we’ve ever seen. The Thunder proved yet again that they can’t get over the finish line. When it’s all said and done, that’s how we’ll look at this series.
All stats are from basketball-reference.com or NBA.com unless otherwise noted
 And it’s not like Durant would go to the team that just beat him. That’s not something you do as an all-time great basketball player.