Let this one breathe a while. Allow the pulse resume its resting rate. Then watch it and replay it endlessly. Invite friends over and dare anyone to deny the inspiration and heartbreak and exhilaration, the sheer drama of it all.
The Warriors on Saturday laid down a game for the ages. A Game 6 that had all the physical and emotional investment of a Game 7. Playing in overtly unfriendly territory, trying to catch up to and beat down the Oklahoma City Thunder and their impassioned fans, knowing that defeat would prematurely bring down the curtain on the most remarkable of seasons.
And, somehow, in a building where they twice faltered horribly only a few days ago, the Warriors prevailed.
Down 12 in the second quarter and down seven inside the final six minutes, they responded with a 108-101 victory that not only tied the Western Conference Finals 3-3, stunning a region, but also provided riveting testimony to the power of faith and labor and fortitude and, in the end, sweet arithmetic.
Three beats two, every time.
And, boy, did Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry bring the 3s. The backcourt duo known among Warriors fans as the “Splash Brothers,” for their proficiency to drop 3-pointers through the net, combined to score 70 points, 51 of which came directly from the 3-ball.
Coach Steve Kerr insists that even in the darkest moments, he believed.
“Just stay with it, stay with it,” Kerr urged his players. “We know how explosive our guards are in particular, and we've got other guys who can knock down threes.”
Thompson scored 41 points, draining 11 treys, an NBA postseason record. Curry scored 29 points, dropping in six from long distance. Combining for seven bombs in the fourth quarter, Thompson and Curry gobbled up the OKC lead and kept firing until the Warriors were in charge of a game they seemed destined to lose.
Asked if it was the greatest game in which he has played, Thompson didn’t hesitate.
“It has to be just because of the situation we're in,” the fifth-year guard said.
“Down 3-2, and we haven't won here in a while,” Thompson added. “We were down 10 at one point. A lot of people probably counted us out. It was just so much fun to play with that emotion and that fire we did for the whole 48 minutes, and that's what playing this game is all about.”
Just as the 3-ball was responsible for the Warriors winning, defense was responsible for OKC’s collapse down the stretch.
The Warriors outscored the Thunder 33-18 in the fourth quarter, forcing six OKC turnovers (turning them into 10 points), and holding Kevin Durant and Co. to 26.3 percent shooting.
As Thompson and Curry were dealing, the Thunder were reeling.
"We do a really good job of understanding how important it is to defend at a high level and in order to win, especially late in games,” said Andre Iguodala, whose fabulous defense was mostly responsible for Durant shooting 10-of-31 and 1-of-7 in the fourth. “You have to get stops. I think it was 98-94 and it seems like first team to 100 always wins. I was a little nervous.”
Nerves were sensitive not only among the Warriors and those who care about them but also among the Thunder and their fans, as well as anyone that could watch this spectacular show of playoff basketball.
“We've got a lot of belief and heart, and we've given ourselves a chance to win this series,” Curry said. “That's all we could ask for. There's obviously a lot of excitement, but we still have one job to do. The way we played tonight shows everyone who we are, and we have one more opportunity to impose our will in this series, and that's what we want to do
“This is a huge win for us considering we've had two elimination games and we needed to take advantage of them and just find a way to win.”
The Warriors were down 3-1 after four games, having been blown off the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Games 3 and 4. They postponed elimination on Thursday, winning Game 5 at home.
They postponed again, as underdogs, on Saturday night.
“We knew what we got ourselves into after game 4,” Green said. “We are down but we are not out. If we want to win this it is going to be a battle. Every game is going to be a battle. Game 5 was a battle. This was a war. We continued to fight and we gave ourselves a chance at the game and eventually our guys knocked down some shots for us.”
Our guys. That’s what Green said, referring to Thompson and Curry. It sounded so common, perhaps because shooting is what those two do so well.
They did it well, indeed, so well their names are deserving of being on the marquee for a game that was, by any measure, a classic to be remembered forever.