Thunder fans nearly experienced their worst nightmare tonight. The Thunder could not afford another loss if they wanted to have a chance of securing the third seed in the West, and they certainly didn't want to have that loss against lowly Golden State. Just when it seemed the pesky Warriors had gone away for the last time in the fourth quarter, the unthinkable happened. Dorrell Wright hits a three, cutting the Thunder's lead in half. There were about 10 seconds left, so Golden State would need a miracle if they wanted to stay in this game. And the miracle game in a easy Monta Ellis steal off of a lazy Daequan Cook pass. Ellis quickly backed up to the three point line and sank another triple, tieing the game and sending it to overtime.
The Warriors nearly had it in overtime as well, taking the lead on two separate occasions and having a chance to win it on a last second Monta Ellis midrange jumper. Alas, the jumper did not go in, and all of Thunder nation celebrated their stopping of one of this season's greatest comebacks.
Unlike most Warrior games, the contest turned out to be a bit of a see-saw battle, with the only huge run happening at the end of the second, when the Thunder closed out the quarter on a huge run. But the Warriors are used to coming back from huge deficits, and they came back slowly over the course of the third quarter. The game remained pretty tight until the 3:48 mark of the fourth quarter, where a Serge Ibaka layup put the Thunder up by ten.
The atmosphere of the game was unreal. Some sections stood up for the entirety of overtime, and the arena was just as loud as it was on Sunday against Portland when the Thunder took their late 10 point lead. It's nice to see that Thunder fans haven't gotten spoiled yet, and can still enjoy the regular season. About 1/6th of the fans in the arena left when the Thunder were up six with 12 seconds to go, and while I can't blame them, I can bite my thumb at them for leaving early and missing the best parts of a great game. It just goes to show that anything can happen in the NBA on any given night.
Below: What the Thunder Did Right and Wrong, Indvidual Performances, Future Analysis, Awards!
All in all, the Thunder really needed to improve their perimeter defense. I know that the Warriors are a great three point shooting team, but 42.6% is just unacceptable, along with all of the wide open shots they got by simply passing the ball around the perimeter a million times. Also, the Thunder's slower big men struggled to catch up with the Warriors, as they would often get clumped together on one side of the post, and then see the ball swung around to the other side for an easy Thunder hoop. Fortunately, the Thunder won't be facing anybody like this in the playoffs though, so their performance here shouldn't scare anyone.
The Thunder did do some things right though. They did an excellent job of getting out on the fast break and scoring easy points whenever it was necessary. They also forced several bad turnovers on the Warriors while the Warriors were pressing the ball up the floor. Lastly, they got to the line at key times, and would have had a relatively easy victory had the Warriors not taken advantage of a crucial mistake.
Kendrick Perkins wasn't a huge help tonight. Yes, he had 13 boards, but I saw him fumble several boards out of his hands down the stretch, and he was a complete offensive non-option against a team that was significantly smaller than he was. But the game wasn't suited to his style of play at all, so you can't really blame him.
Moving forward, this win puts the Thunder five games ahead of Denver in the race for the Northwest Division lead, and only three games back of Dallas for the third seed in the conference. The Warriors fall to 32-43 and are well out of the playoffs, and probably won't move much above or below the twelfth spot in the West.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 39 Points, 6 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 1 Block, 1 Steal.
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, 19 Points, 8 Rebounds, 3 Blocks.
Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook, 15 Points, 4-15 Shooting, 8 Rebounds, 9 Assists, 6 Turnovers, 1 Steal.
Thunder Plunderer: Monta Ellis saved the day, but in reality, the least flawed performance was from David Lee, who had 24 Points, 14 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 4 Turnovers, and a Steal.
Next Game: At the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, March 29th, 9 PM Central Daylight Time.