The Warriors are looking to take hold of momentum, and never let go.
Golden State defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-111 Thursday, sending the series back to the Midwest with a need to survive two elimination games to advance.
They’ll ride their energy into the Chesapeake Energy Arena down 3-2, which is crucial, since this series has proven that venues do indeed matter. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said:
“We did what we wanted — we won the game and fought hard. We kept even on the glass, and for the most part, kept our turnovers down, other than a couple little lapses. But we got some momentum now and we’ve got to take it to Oklahoma City.”
They may also have the Thunder’s best player, Kevin Durant, fatigued — finally. Durant has played more than 40 minutes for three of the five games so far, and there’s no way — even for a player of Durant’s grit — that Oklahoma’s star forward is not winded.
That’s if Thursday was a testament, with Durant shooting a series-worst 37 percent from the floor, though his defensive presence limited Curry to 31 points over 38 minutes, with Curry’s five steals a welcomed addition.
Durant’s ability to switch on defense had been a serious weapon in the Thunder’s arsenal, though it looked, at times, that his body might finally be ailing from the general properties of physics and gravity.
Golden State’s best big, Andrew Bogut, is coming alive. Draymond Green said:
“Big fella was amazing tonight on both ends of the floor. He used his verticality on the defensive end, he was great on the offensive end as well. If we’re going to come back and win this series, like we plan on doing, we need him to continue playing that way. Which I have no doubt that he will.”
The Warriors led Oklahoma in three key categories Thursday night: turnovers, rebounds and personal fouls. That’s a big credit to Bogut’s 30 minutes — the first time such a thing has happened in a game that doesn’t hit overtime this season.
Their opponents have milked the free stripe for all its worth during this year’s playoffs, and it wasn’t a problem until they faced one of the NBA’s elite teams in the Thunder. Golden State added 31 points from the stripe to Oklahoma City’s 20, also managing to get Thunder big man Steven Adams in foul trouble early on.
The result was undeniable: Golden State attacked the rim and won the rebound battle, while not getting their knickers bunched. The Warriors dictated terms, played solid defense and took the right shots — certainly not the case on enemy ground.
“The way everybody reacted to to losing, the way everybody talked and felt, and going into film this morning, you could see everybody was up. Everybody’s spirits were high after the film, after the walkthrough. Everybody’s spirits were high. I knew then that everybody was ready to go and was going to bring that dog to the game.”
Their transitions were adequate, at least, another malady that affected Golden State in their two most recent losses.
A win Thursday means the Dubs have a legitimate shot at a comeback, something that looked far less likely after their 118-94 loss Tuesday. Especially if Klay Thompson continues to play like he did in Oakland — scoring 25 points, with five boards and two assists — along with his trademark pestering defense.
“None of us want to go home. We’re having too much fun out here. No matter what adversity we face, it’s fun being out their with the guys and just going to battle. We’ve got to play wih the same kind of intensity and emotion on Saturday, maybe even exceed it, because we’re laying in their building. And if we do that and play with the same poise we did tonight, we’ll be in a great position.”
Even on a seemingly down night, Durant managed 40 points and seven boards, with Russell Westbrook chirping in 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
The Warriors once again have a real shot to upset the Thunder and win the series. Golden State was the overwhelming favorite until they dropped Game 1 — and especially a pair in Oklahoma City — to slip into the underdog role.
If they can ride this newfound momentum, combining it with sound and fundamental basketball, they might be heading to the NBA Finals after all.
Oklahoma forward Andre Roberson fouled out late in the fourth quarter, and guard Russell Westbrook racked up five fouls for the night. The Thunder committed 26 fouls, though three were late in the game as part of their desperation strategy.