After Game 1
Before this series had even begun, many experts counted the Oklahoma City Thunder out against statistically the greatest team in NBA history: the Golden State Warriors. These two teams have gone up against each other three times in the regular season, each game as exhilarating as the others with takeaways for a potential playoff series. The Warriors defeated the Thunder in all three: two in Golden State and one in OKC. A great majority — including myself — didn’t expect the Thunder to take Game 1. However, the Thunder have grown into a better basketball team with team play and improved efforts on the defensive end.
Here are the biggest takeaways:
- The Thunder played great team defense. Oklahoma City did a fantastic job defending the three point line, switching defenders, and disrupting Golden State’s rhythm to get hot and go on those classic 10-0 runs.
- The Thunder were able to score. This doesn’t sound like a big deal when you have two of the top five players in the NBA, but the Warriors feed off of their opponents mistakes such as missed shots and turnovers; it’s how they go on runs and get that home crowd pumped. The offense itself also allows OKC to stay in the game and not have to shoulder the load on their two biggest stars. Steven Adams and Enes Kanter play an important role in scoring off the block whenever Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook drives and dish and Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson knocking down those three pointers are critical.
- Limited turnovers in the second half. Like previously stated, the Warriors get going off of other’s mistakes. It allows them to go on the fast break and score easy points.
- REBOUNDING. The Thunder have a designated “big” lineup with Kanter and Adams working the front lines and gobbling up all the boards. This will be a major factor in this series.
Before Game 2
The Thunder are already up 1-0; initially the goal was to win at least one game in a place where the Warriors have only lost ONCE all season. But in this case, you cannot relax. This team is not to be taken for granted. When motivated, they have the ability to decimate any given opponent any time. Golden State will be looking to come out swinging to go up early and never look back. Here are the factors that will determine this game.
- The “Death” Lineup. All year, Golden State has utilized a small ball lineup commonly referred to as the “Death” lineup. The lineup consists of Steph, Klay, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green at center. This lineup can run the floor, shoot the three, pass the ball, and pretty much do everything that makes a team deadly. The only area this lineup does not excel in involves rebounding. In this area, the Thunder killed the lineup in rebounding and created new possessions which led to some well-earned buckets. In the next game, Steve Kerr has to make the choice to either go big and get those rebounds back or stay small and kill OKC with the three and taking the bigs on the perimeter.
- Kevin and Russ. Russell had his 19 point 3rd quarter, but combined the duo shot 17 of 51 from the field (33 %). They should bounce back and shoot a lot better.
- Stephen freaking Curry. When he heats up, it’s scary. The Thunder need to contain the supernova that is Steph Curry. There is a reason he’s the two-time reigning MVP.
Let’s see what happens…
After Game 2
Wow. Earlier it was said that Steve Kerr had to decide between going big or playing small. He did both and the team excelled in both ways. Kerr experimented with Anderson Varejao for a little and his impact proved to be successful. In his limited minutes, OKC didn’t rebound at the same prolific rate they did in Game 2.
The third quarter was all about one man: Stephen Curry. Steph heated up in the third when OKC went dry shooting from the field and couldn’t miss, going on a 15-2 run in about a two minute span. It started when Kevin Durant fouled Curry on a three and received a well-deserved technical foul. This seemed like a turning point, catalyzing a 4-0 run in the span of three seconds that increased the Golden State lead to 14. A few Steph threes later, their lead hit 20 and the Warriors were in 73-win mode. In that span, Golden State found their rhythm, but the Thunder lost their cool.
Entering the fourth, it didn’t feel like a game the Thunder could win. It seemed that the Warriors took care of business and it was on to OKC.
As a disclaimer, Golden State may seem to be cruising now, but going to OKC tied 1-1 is a scenario the Thunder would have taken. It is important to keep their composure and take care of business at home. Otherwise, the Warriors will be looking to capitalize on potentially the greatest complete NBA season ever.