Ever since last year’s NBA Finals, the Warriors and the Cavs have seemed to be on a collision course. But now that the Thunder have taken the Dubs to the brink of elimination and the Raptors have miraculously evened their series with the Cavs at 2–2, it bears asking: Is the world ready for a potential Thunder-Raptors Finals?!?
Now, the Splash Brothers could rise from the dead to combine for 100 3s over the next three games, crushing the Thunder’s dreams harder than an unpunished Draymond Green kick to the balls. And it’s silly to pronounce the Cavs dead when they haven’t lost at home this postseason. But still! A Thunder-Raptors Finals is suddenly a distinct possibility, and that’s noteworthy in itself.
Noteworthy doesn’t necessarily mean good, though. Thunder-Raptors would be the least essential Finals since Spurs-Cavs in 2007, both because of its potential one-sidedness (to wit: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook vs. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry) and because it would mean no Warriors-Cavs II, which was thought to be preordained by the hoops gods a few weeks ago. No matchup would be as exciting as a rematch between the top two seeds, but for neither team to make it to June? That is as undesirable as it was once unfathomable.
And yet, here we are, with the Thunder taking a commanding 3–1 series lead over the Warriors — you know, the team that went 73–9? The team that didn’t miss a beat when all-world MVP Steph Curry went down with a knee injury earlier in the playoffs? The living embodiment of the goat emoji? Those Warriors are MIA. In their stead, we have a team that’s getting manhandled by Dion fucking Waiters. Meanwhile, the Cavs can’t play defense, Kevin Love may be hurt, and Bismack Biyombo has done the unthinkable and made Michael Jordan look like a semicompetent talent evaluator. What a time to be alive.
Thunder-Raptors doesn’t have the obvious appeal of Dubs-Cavs, but it isn’t without its charms. Oklahoma City’s infamously haunted Skirvin Hilton Hotel always makes for a juicy subplot — humans may not be able to stop Biyombo from grabbing 15-plus boards per night, but can ghosts? — and Drake’s courtside antics are a welcome sight in any series. Plus, Russell Westbrook’s questionable fashion choices will reach a wider audience, and it remains to be seen how the Thunder will handle Toronto’s lively strip club scene. Sure, these storylines are only tangentially related to basketball, but they’re compelling.
All of which is to say that, nonessential though it may be, a Thunder-Raptors series would at least be unique. Don’t assume it’s a given, though: If David Stern were still around, he’d do whatever necessary to give the people the on-court matchup they want. I’m not saying Adam Silver’s going to put the fix in for Dubs-Cavs, but I’m not saying he won’t, either.
This piece originally appeared on the Ringer Facebook page on May 25, 2016.