Thunder at Golden State Warriors Game 1 Recap – May 16, 2016

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

OAKLAND – It was gut-check time against the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder led just 101-100 on the floor of a team that won a record 73 games in the regular season with 72 seconds to go.

All the sudden, there was chaos on the floor. The ball was loose, and the massive hands of Steven Adams reached out for it and snagged it. He turned, facing the basket, and despite his role as a 7-foot center for this Thunder team, he put the ball on the floor and attacked the rim.

Fighting to the end.

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As he attacked he was fouled, and stepped to the free throw line for the two biggest foul shots of his career. He’s struggled at times from the line, but both shots were pure.

“I just tried to empty (my mind) and stick to my routine. I made them, thankfully,” Adams said.

“We're confident in Steven when he goes to the free throw line,” Kevin Durant said of his third-year center. “He was confident in himself and those are huge.”

After a big defensive stand where the Thunder forced a missed Klay Thompson layup, Kevin Durant knocked down a 17-foot jumper, staying confident despite having shot just 2-for-11 from the field in the fourth quarter before that.

The Thunder’s lead was then 105-100 with 30.7 seconds left, and all it took was three Russell Westbrook free throws and some lockdown defense on the perimeter to earn a 108-102 victory in Game 1 of these Western Conference Finals.

Despite allowing 60 points in the first half, the Thunder stuck with its defensive game plan of switching almost everything on the perimeter, which caused the Warriors to shoot over a hand. Those contested shots stopped falling in the fourth quarter, as the Thunder held Golden State to just 14 points over the final 12 minutes of play. The Thunder’s versatility on the defensive end, especially with long, athletic big men and rangy guards, was a major asset tonight.

“It's huge. They changed lineups a lot throughout the game,” Westbrook said. “Sometimes they have (Draymond) Green at the center, but I thought our bigs did a great job of knowing personnel, switching out, doing a great job of finishing over our length”.

The Thunder went into halftime down by 13 points, and much that damage was done off of turnovers and in transition. The Warriors scored 15 points off of 10 Thunder turnovers and 22 points in transition in the first half. A major factor in the Thunder’s second half turnaround, where it outscored Golden State by 19, was the way it controlled both of those areas. Over the final two quarters, the Thunder turned the ball over just two times that led to two points, and the Warriors scored just one fast break point compared to 14 for Donovan’s club.

“In the second half we did a much, much better job,” Donovan said. “We took better care of the basketball which enabled us to get back in transition, and I think probably play better defense.”

“I felt like our decision-making was better,” Donovan added. “I felt like we were in the middle of the floor a little bit more where maybe some options were a little bit easier to see. I think our guys were conscientious about it.”

While Adams and Serge Ibaka’s combined 27 points and 23 rebounds was a major factor, as was Durant’s massive jumper over Andre Iguodala, the catalyst for the Thunder’s second half was Westbrook. In an incredible third quarter, Westbrook scored 19 points after only managing three in the first half, and then tacked on two rebounds, three assists and three steals in the period. The Thunder point guard’s relentless energy on both ends of the floor was felt for all 12 minutes of the third period that he played, and it helped the Thunder gain all of the momentum heading into the pivotal fourth quarter.

“Russell was the catalyst, getting to the rim, finishing,” Durant said of his All-Star teammate. “We just followed that lead and played hard on the defensive end. Withstood a couple leads they had and just kept playing through it.”

“The belief, the competitiveness, the ability to come back with resolve and continue to battle and fight, I mean, he played an exceptional second half in every facet,” Donovan echoed.

Game 1 Thunder Highlights:

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Great Close to the Third, Start to the Fourth

After there were eight lead changes and three ties in the first quarter, the Warriors took control of the game with a 12-3 run by their reserves, and kept at least a two-possession lead until the third quarter. In fact, the Warriors still led by as many as 10 at 83-73 with 2:43 to go, but a poised Thunder burst to close the quarter and start the fourth turned this into an incredible fourth quarter battle.

The Thunder’s turnaround began with an Enes Kanter block, then the big man leaked out into transition for a layup after Westbrook pushed the pace.

Westbrook then made a steal on the next possession, drawing a foul and converting on two free throws. Next the teams traded off hacking one another’s centers. Festus Ezeli hit one free throw, then Steven Adams hit both of his. The teams then traded baskets on a Westbrook layup and a Draymond Green jumper before Adams hit two more free throws and Durant scored on a tough running scoop shot to make it 88-85 Warriors entering the fourth quarter.

After the quarter break, the Thunder extended its 15-5 run by scoring eight of the first nine points to start the fourth quarter on three-pointers from Durant and Dion Waiters, along with a driving layup by the reserve Thunder guard, who finished with 10 points.

“It’s maturity,” Westbrook said of his fellow attacking guard, Waiters. “I think he's done a great job all season trying to find ways where he's comfortable and I think now he's matured, especially this time of the year. He's doing a great job of being consistent and he's playing well for us.”

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By the Numbers

3 – Road wins for the Thunder in San Antonio and Golden State in the postseason, where opposing teams only won three times during the regular season

12 – Assists for Russell Westbrook in addition to 27 points, seven steals and six rebounds

14 – Points allowed by the Thunder in the fourth quarter, the fewest the Warriors have scored in a quarter all postseason

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The Last Word

“We know coming in here we just wanted to stay together through it all, and I think our guys did a great job mentally of just sticking with it. We were down early. We didn't give up.” – forward Kevin Durant

 

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