On the back of some strong closing defense and late game management, the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to overcome the Golden State Warriors, 108-102. Kevin Durant scored on the Thunder's last real offensive possession of the game, putting the Thunder up 5 with 30 seconds to go. It was a sick faceup crossover of Andre Iguodala. From that point on, it was just a matter of hitting free throws. The refs missed a travel call from Westbrook, but I'm sure most Thunder fans are willing to overlook it. (For the record, several travel calls are missed every single game in the NBA. And here is a non-called travel by Curry just moment before.)
Funnily enough though, it was probably KD's worst game of the playoffs. KD really struggled to get off his turnarounds, and straight up missed a couple of open looks. When it was all said and done, KD shot 10 of 30 on the game, with only four attempts from three. That's just inefficient, especially combined with 3 assists to 5 turnovers. But it was hard for KD, because the Warriors were great at doubling him at the last possible second. Also, KD's turnaround just didn't look efficient.
Russell Westbrook was similarly terrible from the floor, shooting 7 of 21. But Westbrook was valuable in other areas, as he got to the line 14 times, dished 12 assists, and nabbed 7 steals. Westbrook's all-around level of focus and willingness to pass out of traps did him wonders. Westbrook really made an effort to stay aggressive and keep the mid-range two as a part of his game though. Hard to fault his decision making, when he's right on the money 60-70% of the time.
Interviews: Russell Westbrook Postgame Interview | Durant and Westbrook Postgame Presser | Billy Donovan Postgame Presser | Stephen Curry Postgame Presser | Steve Kerr Postgame Presser | Draymond Green Postgame Presser
Dion Waiters shows up in big moments
Waiters didn't have an overly impressive game individually. 10 Points on 4 of 6 shooting with 4 assists is efficient, but not amazing. However, the timeliness of Waiters' points was impeccable.
- With the Thunder down 11-15 in the first quarter, Waiters hit a crossover mid-range jumper on Draymond Green. Then, Waiters stopped Green from posting him up on the other end. It seems small, but it felt like the Warriors were going to take control of the game at that point.
- With 1:13 to go in the second quarter, the Warriors were up 12. Klay Thompson was dribbling the ball up the court, and Golden State was really threatening to blow things open. But Waiters made a swift cut through Draymond Green, and Green was called for sticking his butt out. The Thunder got possession, and Waiters hit a corner three to cut things to 9.
- Dion Waiters assisted on the three pointer that Durant made to tie the game with 11:48 to go.
- Waiters scored a layup around Thompson and Barnes with 10:30 to go. This put the Thunder up 90-88. It was OKC's first lead since 10-9 in the first quarter.
Lineup Chess: Donovan goes big in second half
In the last four minutes of the first half, Donovan went small with no Adams or Kanter on the floor. The result was a net 6 point deficit. The Warriors were still able to get their threes in transition, regardless of the fact that the Thunder were small. OKC's interior defense was still okay with Ibaka down low. But the real problem was on the offensive end. Without Adams or Kanter there to create room, it was hard for OKC to get an open shot. Westbrook or Durant had to create on their own, or otherwise make a risky pass. Furthermore, the lineup gives up a lot in rebounding. So hopefully, we'll never see it again.
The lineup that everyone wants to talk about is the Adams-Kanter Twin Towers lineup. Donovan only used the lineup once in the first half, for a minute and fifteen seconds at the beginning of the second quarter. But the Adams-Kanter lineup was hugely successful in the second half. Adams and Kanter shared the floor for roughly 8 minutes between the third and fourth quarters. Over that period, the Thunder were +14 overall. During the first four minutes of the Adams-Kanter lineup, Westbrook had 8 points. Kanter was definitely taken advantage of on defense, but usually in ISOs. That meant Kanter was actually kind of effective on defense with Curry off the floor, because it's harder for the other Warriors to consistently hit their long two point jumpers. That and the Warriors struggle to score without Curry anyway.
I expected the Adams-Kanter lineup to really struggle. The Warriors have the Curry-Thompson-Iguodala-Barnes-Green smallball lineup that seems to work so well. And that lineup did work well against the Thunder tonight, as it went +2 in the first quarter and +3 in the second quarter. But that lineup was nowhere to be found when the Thunder went big between the third and fourth quarters. And by the time the Warriors went back to their small ball lineup, the Thunder had already switched back to playing with Ibaka at power forward. The Warriors were able to score on Ibaka, but the lineup simply wasn't as threatening on the defensive end.
Nevertheless, I feel like the Thunder simply caught the Warriors in a bad spot. Putting the smallball lineup out there when the Thunder went big would have destroyed the Warriors rotations. So I'm expecting Kerr and his team to adjust. And I'm still skeptical of the Thunder's big lineup having an advantage when the Warriors go small. But if worse comes to worse, the Thunder can just put KD at power forward, and Adams at center.
Andre Roberson will probably prove to be the most challenged defender in this series, as his job is dealing with Stephen Curry primarily. Roberson led the team with 13 contested shots. Serge Ibaka was challenged a lot as well, because the Warriors are often running a stretch four that will try to take advantage of Ibaka's size. Ibaka was second on the team with 11 contested shots. Next came Kanter and Adams, with 10 contested shots each. Kanter was often targeted by the Warrior defense, so his inclusion is no surprise. Adams was, as usual, the Thunder's primary rim protector.
Lastly, I'd like to point out Russell Westbrook, who had 5 deflections but only 4 contested shots. I guess Russ is gonna Russ.
Highlight of the Night
Serge Ibaka's timing on blocks remains incredible.
- Waiters was defacto backup point guard tonight. Waiters handled a few possessions himself, while others were just bringing the ball up for KD. But Waiters didn't have problems with pressure, and actually scored on a couple of charges to the rim. Foye also worked decently as a wing, and hit an open three from the corner.
- Enes Kanter was 3-4 in the paint, 1-3 from mid-range, and 0-1 from three. Kanter's outside attempts were open, so there's a chance tonight could have been really effective for him.
- Steven Adams scored on Festus Ezeli with the Thunder down 13, then blocked a Livingston layup attempt on the other end. Also, Adams managed to do this while cotton was sticking out of his nose!
- Roberson was 3-3, including a three. Love the work he does running behind the defense.
- The Warriors were 37-0 this season when leading by 10+ points at halftime.
- Westbrook made a pass off of his butt to Steven Adams for a short flip shot in the fourth quarter.
- Serge Ibaka had some big defensive failures down the stretch. With 4:28 to go, Ibaka failed to switch out to guard a Curry three. With 3:47 to go, Ibaka went all the way out to the three point line to guard Draymond Green. Green responded by dribbling past Ibaka for a layup. And with 2:00 to go, Ibaka gave up position on Harrison Barnes, allowing for a layup.
- The Warriors were ready for Ibaka on offense, as he went 1 of 5 from mid-range. But Ibaka did get 3 of 3 inside, working the pick and roll as well as offensive rebounds. Ibaka was a tenable 1 of 3 from three.
- Steven Adams had a really strong close. With a minute to go, Adams got fouled off of an opportunistic rebound and subsequent charge to the basket. Adams hit both free throws, putting the Thunder up by 3. This was while Adams was struggling with a nasty right hand injury, too. On the next possession, Adams dealt with Klay Thompson in a mismatch. Thompson tried to score at the rim, but Adams deterred it.
- Offensively, Adams had 16 points, all in the paint and from the line. But Adams also nailed a couple of those short flip shots that we've seen out of him all season.
- Curry, Thompson, and Green were all decent but not great. Curry's threes were ridiculously deep though, and Kly had some super sneaky drives to the rim. Kudos to OKC for knowing to guard both players from three, but not from mid-range.
- "We're fine right now. We've been in this situation before. Let's just slowly chip away right now and get our way back into the game." -Billy Donovan at halftime, with OKC down 13
Thunder Wonder: Steven Adams, for playing through the pain
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, for some wonderful riverboat gambling on defense
Thunder Blunder: Serge Ibaka, for his late game defensive miscues
Thunder Plunderer: Draymond Green, a big man who can attack the rim like no other
Next Game: At the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, May 18th, 8 PM Central Daylight Time.
What did you think of last night's game? Drop a comment and let us know!