The reports of the Warriors’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. Last night in Oakland, the Warriors prevailed over the Thunder, 120-111, to force a Game 6 on Saturday. It wasn't the prettiest Warriors win, but it at least bore some semblance of the team that we are used to seeing, and after their zombie performances in Games 3 and 4, we'll gladly take it.
Steph had a decent game (for Steph standards), having scored 30 points on 20 shots and being a perfect 10 for 10 at the free throw line. From the three, he went 3/8, which is okay. Klay had a fairly good game (for Klay standards), scoring 27. The biggest upgrade though, came from the center position. On the defensive end, Andrew Bogut managed to avoid early foul trouble, which allowed him to actually stay on the court. His big body presence clogged up the driving lanes, forcing OKC to either take ugly, off-balanced shots or to dish the ball back out and reset the offense. Westbrook, especially, was taken off his game; he was was unable to penetrate into the paint with his fearless drives, and instead took his shots from the outside—the Warriors can live with that. Andrew Bogut will need to find a way to replicate last night’s performance for the remainder of this series if the Warriors want to even think about surviving OKC. Offensively, Bogut scored 15 points. His put-backs make for precious points, as they give the Warriors two and deny the Thunder a rebound and offensive possession. Mo Speights, as he is wont to do, scored 14 in 9 minutes, including one three and a perfect 5 for 5 at the line. God bless that man.
Another very key factor in the Warriors win was that they made the Thunder role players go back to looking like mere role players. OKC had been finding free money in the contributions from players like Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson. These guys have no business doing anything more than being warm bodies to fill out the roster, and yet, there they were, dropping double-digit points on the Warriors. Not last night. Roberson scored 6; Waiters none. KD and Russ taking the lion’s share of shots meant limited chances for the rest of the team, and that’s exactly what the Warriors want. In the previous two games, the Thunder, by incorporating players not named Durant and Westbrook, played more like the Warriors—they passed the ball around fluidly, passing up good looks for great looks. Last night, the Thunder fell back to their old ways, playing isolation ball with KD and Russ taking all the shots. If the Thunder want to play 5 on 2, the Warriors will win, every time.
Ok, so Phase 1 in the master-plan for the Greatest Comeback In NBA Playoff History is complete. Now onto the second and most difficult phase: win in OKC. Considering Games 3 and 4, this seems like Mission Impossible, a suicide mission. That arena is just as hostile, if not more, than the Roaracle. It sounds, from the TV broadcast anyway, to be insanely loud, and the Thunder clearly thrive off it, especially the emotionally fueled Westbrook. At the same time, the Warriors appear to have been cowed by the crowd. The Thunder will be the clear favorites to win Game 6, and deservedly so. Though the Warriors won last night, they didn’t win in such a gut-punching fashion so as to give the Thunder any doubt in their minds about Game 6. But if Steph and Klay go Super Saiyan, and if Draymond shuts that crowd down, and if Bogut and Iggy and Harrison and Shaun make their critical contributions, and if the Warriors somehow win Game 6, that will be the punch that sends OKC to the mat for an eight count.
Let’s go, boys. Let’s go to Oklahoma City with their one-building downtown and bring it back home to the Bay. We got this.
Western Conference Finals
Golden State Warriors (1) v. Oklahoma City Thunder (3)
Warriors trail series 2-3
Game 1: Warriors LOST, 108-102
Game 2: Warriors WON, 118-91
Game 3: Warriors LOST, 133-105
Game 4: Warriors LOST, 118-94
Game 5: Warriors WON
Game 6: Warriors at Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 28, 6 PM, TNT
Game 7: Warriors at home, Monday, May 30, 6 PM, TNT