NBA: Ranking the 10 most important games from the last 10 years

NBA former Heat forward LeBron James (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
NBA former Heat forward LeBron James (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) /
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4. 2016 Western Conference Finals – Game 6: Warriors vs. Thunder

Thunder fans should probably just skip to the next one…

Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals was the best chance the Thunder ever had to get back to the NBA Finals after 2012. After losing Game 5 at Golden State they returned home to Oklahoma City with a chance to close out the 73-win Warriors and avoid going back to Oracle Arena – the toughest place in the NBA to escape with a win as a road team.

Many remember this game as the night when “Game 6 Klay” was born, but the Thunder survived his incredible shooting for the most part. The Splash Brothers weren’t getting any significant help from their supporting cast and, despite inefficient shooting from Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder held a seven-point lead with 5:47 left in the game.

And every Thunder fan knows what happened after that.

Steph and Klay combine to only miss a combined 3 shots in the final 6 minutes while Durant and Westbrook didn’t convert a field goal in the last 5 minutes. The only points during that stretch for the Thunder’s stars come from 2 Westbrook free throws.

The Warriors win the game, close out the Thunder at home in Game 7, and the Durant/Westbrook combination never plays together again. It was the official end to what was once the most promising young core in the NBA – one Finals appearance, zero championships.

But what if things went differently? What if, instead of making 11(!) 3’s, Klay makes seven or eight? What if, instead of shooting 32 percent and 37 percent respectively, either Durant or Westbrook has even an average shooting night or just makes a couple of shots down the stretch?

We’ll never know, but maybe Durant doesn’t leave Oklahoma City after reaching the Finals. Maybe they beat the Cavs and the Thunder finally get the championship they’d been chasing for so long while KD steals the crown from LeBron James as the best player in the world. Maybe instead of being the league’s biggest villain from 2017-2019, Durant remains the lovable superstar who never leaves the team that drafted him.

I don’t know and no one ever will, but one thing is for sure – the second half of the decade is a very different scene if the Thunder find a way to close out Game 6 at home.