OAKLAND -- Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals stunned everyone. The Oklahoma City Thunder walked into Oracle Arena and knocked off the reigning champion Golden State Warriors by a final of 108-102.
Game 2 was a battle for the first 23 minutes of the game -- and then the Warriors went nuts, demolishing the Thunder by a final of 118-91.
Golden State used an 8-0 run in the final 1:06 of the first half, igniting the crowd and staggering the Thunder. Andre Iguodala nearly blew the lid off the building with a circus shot layup with just under a minute remaining, leading 57-49 Warriors advantage going to the intermission.
“I thought we were in pretty good shape there going into the half and then they kind of hit us with that flurry,” coach Billy Donovan said.
Both teams started the second half slowly, before Stephen Curry picked up the pace. After dropping in a 3-pointer, the league’s MVP got hammered the next time down on a breakaway attempt, but the official swallowed his whistle.
Clearly agitated by the no-call, Curry streaked to the corner where he was fouled again, this time on a 3-point attempt. The officials saw this one, sending the Warriors guard to the line.
Kevin Durant took exception to something on the play and picked up a tech, which gave Curry a fourth free throw attempt. He knocked down all four freebies and the series of plays seem to light a fire under him.
The NBA’s leading scorer went on a 15-2 run over a two minute stretch the third, pushing the Warriors lead to 20 with five minutes remaining in the quarter.
“Curry’s faced every possible defense there is,” Donovan said. “He’s faced trapping. He’s faced switching. He’s faced denials - he’s faced it all. There are certain situations where you’re going to get yourself in a bind and you’ve got to communicate your way through those things.”
By the time Curry sat with 2:36 remaining in the period, the game was already over. He had scored 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including three makes from long range. With Curry launching, the passing lanes magically opened for Golden State as they dropped the hammer on a dazed Thunder team.
“They’ve got four other players that are pretty effective and can do a lot with the basketball,” Durant said when asked what they can do to stop Curry. “He makes bad shots - makes those shots. Sometimes you just have to put a hand up and contest, and when you pick-and-roll try to put a couple of bodies on him. But he made some tough ones and then we turned the ball over and he got a few in transition as well.”
The Warriors throttled the Thunder to the tune of 31-19 in the quarter and walked into the final frame with a 20-point advantage. The score snow-balled from there.
Curry’s big night completely overshadowed a tremendous performance by Durant. The rangy forward dropped in a game-high 29 points for OKC on 11-for-18 shooting, but 25 of those points came before the half.
“They were sending three guys and I was just trying to make the right pass,” Durant said in his defense. “I was turning the ball over playing in a crowd, so maybe I’ve just got to shoot over three people.”
With the Warriors rolling, Durant was limited to just four shot attempts in the second half. Golden State put the clamps on the seven-time All-Star, even forcing him into a game-high eight turnovers.
“He’s got to do a better job and we’ve got to do a better job of creating open avenues and gaps for him to either pass it or drive it,” Donovan said.
Russell Westbrook added 16 points and 12 assists in 31 minutes, but he was the only other Thunder player to score in double-figures. For the second straight game, Westbrook struggled with his shot, going just 5-of-14 from the field.
Golden State led by as many as 35 in the fourth as they steam rolled OKC. Seven players scored in double-figures, led by Curry’s 28 in just 30 minutes of action.
The series shifts to Oklahoma’s Chesapeake Energy Arena for game three on Sunday afternoon where the Thunder will attempt to hold court after stealing one of two in Oakland.