The Golden State Warriors were minutes away in each of the last three games from getting run over, smashed through, and overmatched physically in a series that positioned their schematic prowess over the Oklahoma City Thunder's athletic power.
In the end, there was never a specific scheme the Warriors figured out in turning this series on its head. There was no one-move fix-all that gave us grand flashbacks of the Tony Allen defensive move or the first unveiling of the Death Lineup in the 2015 NBA Finals. Instead, it became a matter of mental fortitude. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and the rest of the Warriors stayed strong, held together, and ultimately vanquished a team that had simply outplayed them the majority of the games.
After the game, Green spoke about the big three getting together after the Game 4 loss and working towards a shift in gameplan, readying themselves to erase all doubt.
"Once we figure it out, we can get rolling," Green said. "And it happened after Game 4."
This time, the adjustment wasn't about which chess piece to move, which rotation to make, and what breakdown to correct. All of those were obvious and simply required better basketball. With better basketball came the requirement for the Warriors to steel themselves in the eye of the storm, and take just enough shots to stay up so they could finish the Thunder off when Durant and Westbrook had lost all their ammo.
Much like the rest of the season, it all came back down to Stephen Curry and the shot-making the Warriors can accomplish. As Curry closed out the Thunder yet again with a series of unnerving and spectacularly ordinary shots, for him, it became clear that the Warriors' objective was simply hanging in when the Thunder went on back-breaking runs. Sooner or later, they would empty the clip and the Warriors would have plenty left in the tank. As long as they weren't too deep in the hole, like in Games 3 and 4, they could deal the final blow for the win.
The Warriors fought back against each and every OKC comeback in the final frame, doing their best "Hold The Door!" impersonation as Kevin Durant tried to shoot his way into his second Finals appearance and all-time upset. So many times the Warriors looked too small, too slow, and too overwhelmed. In Game 6, Thompson saved the day. In Game 7 -- in a pressure-packed contest that saturated the Oracle Arena air with nervous energy -- Curry satiated the crowd with repeated haymakers. While not the most important game of their careers, this represented the single toughest challenge GSW had ever faced.
Then, finally, with under 20 seconds remaining, Curry dribbled up, down, and around the Thunder defense before launching one more three to close out one of the greatest comebacks of all time. And in his words, "having a moment," Curry pulled off his best Baron Davis impression as he raised his jersey over his face, baring the black tank underneath, and roaring with a crowd that had lost its collective minds on impact.
The turning point, in Curry's words? It had everything to do with Game 6 when the Warriors hung with the Thunder in the second quarter just enough before Klay bailed them out. It took them 5.5 games to get there. Nothing in the past could have prepared them for this. Not last year's Finals, not the grind of this record-breaking season, and not anything in their professional careers. It took a 3-1 deficit for them to finally figure it out, to finally warp past the deer-in-headlights demeanor when the other team is simply outplaying you.
These Golden State Warriors are a lot of things. Hell, they might even be everything. But in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, these Warriors learned that they were the lesser team for extended stretches of play. And if we're being honest, for the majority of the series. Then, in the 2016 Western Conference Finals (which felt more like the actual NBA Finals themselves), these Warriors learned that they had a lot more to learn, a lot more to adapt to, and ultimately, a whole lot more to achieve.
As this team blows past an obstacle that seemed most likely to end their fairy tale season, it now appears that the final ending is coming to their grand fruition. And all because they reached a level none of us thought they would ever need to find. Mere seconds before the confetti dropped, Curry stood, screaming into the abyss like never before. His entire being shook with elation, knowing that when his team needed him the most, he had shut it down yet again.
While the Warriors become the stuff of legends, Stephen Curry's on-court heroics rise above them all, shrouding a league that he owns more than ever before. The Warriors are four wins away from putting together the single greatest season of all time.