It rained threes in the Dust Bowl. The Oklahoma City Thunder had the Golden State Warriors right where they wanted them - on the ropes in an elimination game. And then Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry happened.
OKC led by three after the first quarter, five at the half and they took an eight-point lead into the final frame, but the Warriors wouldn't go away.
Over the final 4:40 of the game, the Thunder were outscored 16-4 by the Warriors. OKC went 1-of-5 from the field over that stretch and turned the ball over six times, which allowed Golden State to come away with the improbable 108-101 victory to force a make-or-break Game 7.
“In the half court, I just didn’t feel like we ran our offense with the pace and the tempo that we needed to run,” coach Billy Donovan told reporters following the game. “I thought we kind of got into it a little bit slowly.”
Kevin Durant put up similar stats to what he finished with Thursday at Oracle Arena. The superstar wing dropped in 29 points, but he shot just 10-for-31 from the field on his home court. He added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, but he hit just 1-of-7 from the field in the fourth as the Warriors pulled away.
Golden State has run plenty of different looks at Durant throughout the series. Thompson guarded him on plenty of possessions, so has Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green. But to start the second half, Steve Kerr turned to his veteran stopper off the bench to slow one of the game’s best scorers.
Andre Iguodala played 21 minutes in the second half. His offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, although his layup down the stretch was huge. Where he did his work was on the defensive end.
“I like my shots,” Durant said when asked about the matchup with Iguodala. “It’s just a matter of them going in. Like I said, when I drive to the rim they bring guys at me, so I've got to do a better job of making the extra pass. I wish I could have got a lot of those shots back. I felt great on a lot of them, but that's just how it is.”
The fact is, his shots didn’t go in against Iguodala. Durant hit just 4-of-12 shooting after the intermission. When he is on, he is one of the most unstoppable forces in the NBA. But when he’s off, the plan is for him to continue to hoist up shots. It’s how the Thunder are constructed as a team. They live by their stars and in the last two games, they die by their stars.
“We want (Durant) to do everything he can,” Steven Adams said. “He’s one of the best players in the world, so we want him to be (as) aggressive as he can. As a team, support him and trust him and Russ, with any decision. We give them that freedom (to) hopefully make the play and we do the best we can to put them in the situation they need to be in.”
Russell Westbrook struggled as well, nearly posting a triple-double, but on just 10-of-27 shooting. Westbrook still managed to stuff the stat sheet, finishing the night with 28 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds and four steals in 44 minutes of play.
The Thunder are consistent with their play style. Thursday night in Oakland, Durant and Westbrook combined to shoot 59 of the team’s 91 shots. Saturday in OKC, the duo shot 58 of the Thunder’s 90 shot attempts, combining to hit just 20 field goals.
Warriors Fire Away
After a slow start, Thompson caught fire from long range. He set an NBA record 11 3-pointers on the night, including a blistering 5-of-6 from deep in the deciding fourth The two-time All-Star finished the night with a game-high 41 points, but 19 came in the final frame as the Warriors snatched back home court advantage.
“I thought we did a good job of contesting threes,” Kevin Durant said. “Thompson hit some tough ones over hands, Curry hit some tough ones over hands. That’s what they do. You’ve got to live with some of those.”
It’s hard to argue with Durant’s assessment. The Thunder did a marvelous job of chasing the Warriors star-studded backcourt and making life difficult, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Thompson found another gear. He wasn’t even looking at the basket on a couple of his triples - just turned and fired away.
“Obviously they have the two best shooters in the game right now with Klay and Steph and we know what they’re capable of,” Andre Roberson said. “We definitely had some mishaps on our behalf: miscommunications, leaving them wide open, transition, and switches here and there. They got open with a couple and got going. When they get going they’re definitely tough to stop.”
Curry wasn’t far behind his fellow Splash Brother. The two-time league MVP finished the night with 29, including 14 in the third quarter. Curry added 10 rebounds and nine assists in 41 minutes of action.
“We know exactly what they do, they know exactly what we do, it’s just a matter of who wants it more,” Durant said. “I think both teams went out there and played extremely hard and they made more shots than we did, especially from the three. That was the name of the game tonight.”
Game 7 Monday night at Oracle should be an epic battle. Can the Thunder slow Thompson and Curry? Can Durant and Westbrook find a way to stun the NBA world like they did in Game 1? The script for this series has been written and rewritten multiple times. No one knows how this one will end.