Basketball: Steven Adams' fairytale run over

By Kris Shannon

Golden State Warriors 96 Oklahoma Thunder 88

Steven Adams' fairytale post-season run has been ended by the monster that has enveloped the NBA.

But the progression of the Kiwi in these playoffs alone should ensure he won't have long to wait for another shot at a maiden title.

The Golden State Warriors this afternoon earned the chance to claim a second straight championship, sneaking past Adams and Oklahoma City in a decisive game seven to win the Western Conference finals.

Read more:
Watch: NBA legend heaps praise on Steven Adams

The Warriors set the NBA record with 73 wins this season and, during that streak, learned a thing or two about overcoming deficits and clinching unlikely victories.

And the defending champs were forced to call on all of that experience after falling into a 3-1 hole, winning three straight elimination games to set up a finals rematch against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Two-time MVP Stephen Curry today led his side with 36 points and eight assists, combining with fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson to shoot 13-of-23 from beyond the arc. Thompson had 21 points after his offensive explosion kept alive the season in game six, while Kevin Durant paced the Thunder with 27 points and seven rebounds.

Often the victim as Curry drained improbable shot after shot over his seven-foot frame, Adams finished with nine points and nine rebounds to conclude the playoffs averaging 10.2 points and 9.5 boards.

The 22-year-old a major factor in earlier series triumphs over the Mavericks and Spurs, and his influence against the Warriors was today captured by NBA legend and television analyst Charles Barkley.

"That boy Steven Adams is real," said the 11-time All Star. "This is my first chance to watch him in person in seven straight games and he is going to be a star in this league. He's unbelievable and he's tough, too."

Despite those qualities, defeat meant Adams' third campaign in the NBA ended the same as his first, suffering a third-round playoff exit with a title within tantalising reach. But that's where the similarities between those seasons end.

Adams has in this post-season become a major force for the Thunder, remaining stout defensively and giving his side an improved inside presence on the offensive end to complement All Star duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

And the centre's growth seems sure to have increased what was already promising to be a mammoth pay day next year. Entering the final season of his rookie contract, Adams will in 2017 either sign an extension with the Thunder or test the open market, with either option appearing lucrative.

After estimates of his yearly value had previously sat in the US$15 million ($22m) range, one salary cap expert predicted Adams' performance in these playoffs had added US$5m-a-year to any eventual deal.

Whether that financial reward can be followed by on-court success will depend on a couple of factors. The Thunder will next season again be tasked with toppling what's rapidly becoming a juggernaut - a difficult but realistic goal having out-played the Warriors for large stretches of this series - and they will have to re-sign Durant.

A free agent this off-season, the former MVP will be the hottest of property in the NBA, but the development of Adams and the Thunder's young core may help to sway his decision.

Oklahoma City certainly sent a message in these playoffs. And, after again clashing with Adams in today's first half, arch rival Draymond Green said the same was true of the young Kiwi.

"I love what he brought to the table," Green said. "I have mad respect for him."

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