Last night’s game was that dream where all your teeth fall out. The Western Conference Finals was supposed to be between the two best teams in the NBA, the Warriors and the Spurs. Instead, we got the Thunder and saw why so many of us would have preferred San Antonio.
It didn’t start that way, though. No, the first quarter wasn’t the prettiest any of us ever saw, but it more or less played out exactly the way the Warriors wanted. Steph, Klay, and Dray combined for 17 and Playoff Barnes emerged with 8 points, including two threes. Meanwhile, OKC’s Durant and Westbrook combined for only 7. The quarter ended Warriors up, 27-21. So far, so good.
The second quarter began with one of the Warriors’ greatest strengths: its bench. Golden State has one of the deepest rosters in the NBA and the world would hear our lamentations if we had to swap our second unit for the 76ers starters. Livingston, Iggy, and Leandro immediately expanded that 6-point lead to 13. The Thunder then made their run before Klay shut that down with his 13 points in the quarter. The half ended with one of those Steph Curry shots that make the fans of the opposing team punch themselves in the face. 30 feet out with less than a second on the clock? Of course Steph made it. Warriors 60, Thunder 47.
At this point, the Warriors and us fans were feeling ourselves. A 13-point lead going into the half, winning both quarters by 6 and 7 points respectively, stomping out OKC runs with demoralizing threes. But this is the Thunder. They have two of the top 5 players in the league in KD and Westbrook and they’re finally both healthy in the playoffs. Their window together in OKC has long been rumored to be closing and this may be their last year to get it done before free agency rips that team apart. This is their time and they know it. And when the third quarter started, the bad dreams began.
Westbrook made exactly one shot in the entire first half. That would not stand. During one 4-minute stretch in the middle of the 3rd, he scored 15 straight points, finishing with 19 for the quarter. Five Golden State turnovers led to 8 OKC points. OKC took 16 free throws. Those fouls completely disrupted the flow of the Warriors game and they stagnated playing a half-court offense.
One of your molars feels a little loose. You tongue it, wondering what’s happening, but the more you inspect it, the looser it gets. You reach in with your fingers and it completely dislodges. You stare in horror at your bloody tooth, you look up, and now the score is Warriors 88, Thunder 85. The hell is going on?
The Warriors lost the lead 12 seconds into the 4th and would never reclaim it. Golden State shot 10 threes in the 4th and made only 1. Not surprisingly, then, they scored only 14 in the quarter—live by the 3, die by the 3. The only thing keeping the Warriors in the game was KD somehow missing 8 consecutive shots, so of course it had to be him who basically iced the game with the shot that took the Thunder lead to 5 with 30 seconds left. Yes, the Warriors were only down by 3 with 17 seconds left when Westbrook travelled. Yes, the referees completely blew that call and yes, the Warriors would have had an eternity to get the ball to one of the two best 3-point shooters in the game. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The team that scores 14 points in the 4th quarter at home in the Western Conference Finals loses every single time. Those are the rules.
The thing about bad dreams is that you wake up from them. Last night was not good. If you were at the game, don’t go to another—you’re bad luck. But today we still have our beautiful smiles and we can calm ourselves and be reminded that the Warriors are still the better team—KD and Westbrook can take on anyone in the league, but the Thunder can not take on the Warriors, not for 7 games. We still got this. But make no mistake, it has to get done on Wednesday. It may be silly to call a Game 2 a must-win game, but this is where we are. Brush and floss those teeth, people.
Western Conference Finals
Golden State Warriors (1) v. Oklahoma City Thunder (3)
Warriors trail series 0-1
Game 1: Warriors LOST, 108-102
Game 2: Warriors at home, Wednesday, May 18, 6 PM, TNT
Game 3: Warriors at Oklahoma City, Sunday, May 22, 5 PM, TNT
Game 4: Warriors at Oklahoma City, Tuesday, May 24, 6 PM, TNT
Game 5: Warriors at home, Thursday, May 26, 6 PM, TNT
Game 6: Warriors at Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 28, 6 PM, TNT
Game 7: Warriors at home, Monday, May 30, 6 PM, TNT