Warriors Splash And Dash To Game 7

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson drives around Thunder guard Dion Waiters in Saturday's 108-101 Golden State win in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. (Photo By Sam Murch/InsideThunder.com)

Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson drives around Thunder guard Dion Waiters in Saturday's 108-101 Golden State win in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. (Photo By Sam Murch/InsideThunder.com)

We all figured it was coming at some point and in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals the “Splash Brothers” lived up to their moniker.

Klay Thompson splashed enough threes all by himself (11 overall, five in the fourth quarter) to drown the Thunder 108-101 and force Game 7 on Monday night back in Oakland.

“All Klay needs is a sliver of daylight” said fellow Splash Bro Steph Curry who dropped in six 3s and finished with 29 points.

Thompson though stole the show then broke the Thunder’s hearts with 41 points. His 11 threes are an NBA playoff record.

“I should have had at least 13 because I missed some wide-open looks early,” Thompson said, “But I had no idea what the record was. I didn’t even know I had 11 threes.”

“The shots he made tonight were huge, but they were shots that he had his feet underneath him and he just had all the confidence in the world,” Curry continued.

The Thunder led by three after the first quarter, by five at halftime, and by eight at the end of the third quarter.

It all came apart in the fourth when the Warriors outscored OKC 33-18 while dropping eight 3s, Thompson was 5-for-6 on long balls and Curry was 2-for-4. The Thunder couldn’t come close to keeping up going 0-for-3 from deep and 5-for-19 (26.3 percent overall. Kevin Durant was 1-for-7 in the fourth and Russell Westbrook was 2-for-7. They finished with 29 (Durant) and 28 (Westbrook) on a combined 20-for-56 shooting.

“I liked my shots it was just a matter of them going in,” Durant said. “When I drive to the rim they bring guys at me so I’ve got to do a better job of making the extra pass. I wish I could have a lot of those shots back. I felt great on a lot of them but that’s just how it is.”

KD and Russ combined to take 14 shots in the fourth quarter, everyone else on the roster combined for five, no one had any assists.

Did the Thunder revert to “Hero Ball?”

Well when you have two superstars are are among, as many people say, the top five basketball players in the world, then yeah you probably do. And you hope they make most of those shots.

“For the most part I thought we tried to make the right plays and make the right decisions, especially down the stretch,” Westbrook told reporters. “They just made more shots than we did.”

The Warriors afterall did the very same thing. Curry and Thompson combined for 14 shots, just like Durant and Westbrook but the Splash Brothers hit eight of those 14 and seven of the eight were 3-pointers.

Plain and simple “Hero Ball” looks great when the shots are “splashing” and it doesn’t look nearly as heroic when they’re not.

It’s on to Game 7 now where both teams will have a chance to move on to the NBA Finals.

“Win or go home,” Westbrook said when asked about Monday’s game. “Simple as that.”

 

Thunder Want Hot Start And Big Finish

Reporters and photographers wait to speak with Thunder forward Kevin Durant while the team practices Saturday at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center. (Photo By Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com)

Reporters and photographers wait to speak with Thunder forward Kevin Durant while the team practices Saturday at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center. (Photo By Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com)

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Who knows if the trend will continue tonight but in this series with the Warriors and in these playoffs the Thunder are undefeated when they’ve led at the end of the first quarter.

The Warriors are 2-0 in this series when they’ve been on top after one.

And the Thunder are 9-0 in the playoffs when they’ve led any game by at least 10 points at any time during the contest.

So it kinda sounds like whichever team has a good first 12 minutes that team has a good chance of sustaining that success.

None of that is a shock to Kevin Durant.

“That’s just the playoffs,” he said. “That’s what every team wants to do you wanna start off the game with the first punch and play physical basketball and I think that’s what we’ve been doin’ throughout these playoffs is being as physical as we can.”

And Durant said that must continue tonight if the Thunder are going to walk out of the arena with a trophy.

“We got a bunch of guys that play that way so if we wanna have a chance to beat this team tonight we gotta come out and do that from the beginning.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after his team’s shootaround this morning, “I feel like we’re more prepared, especially after Game 5, so I feel good about tonight.”

Kerr admitted though he also felt good about the Warriors chances going into both Games 3 and 4 which ended up being Thunder blowouts fueled by the raucous atmosphere inside The Peake.

“We just need to be solid on both end of the floor,” Kerr said when asked if the Warriors need to start fast. “We gotta execute offensively, we can’t turn it over, we gotta get good shots and then defensively get back in transition. It sounds boring but that’s how you stay in games.”

The Thunder have now won four straight home playoff games by at least 20 points, “this is a great crowd,” Kerr said. A crowd that can easily energize the home team and help overwhelm the visitors.

But like Billy Donovan said on Friday Durant agreed he and his teammates can’t depend on the voices of the fans in the seats to insure victory.

“We gotta go out there and play,” he said. “No matter where we are, who we’re playing against we still have to go out there and play and we gotta bring our “A” game, play hard and be disciplined.”

Tipoff is set for 8 o’clock tonight and you can see the game exclusively on TNT. You can follow me on Twitter @RandyRenner for live updates and check out our feed page for tweets from other NBA and Thunder reporters. Full postgame coverage, videos and blogs will be posted here after the game.

 

Billy D Says Thunder Need "Total Team Effort" In Game 6

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

Thunder players had Friday off, though most of them came in anyway, but Billy Donovan and his coaches spent the day going through lots of game tape working on ways to counter some of the things the Warriors did to win Game 5.

Obviously they’re going to have to do a better job on the boards because the Warriors grabbed 45 rebounds, same as OKC and they were stout inside.

Andrew Bogut, who had been largely ineffective in the first four games, came up huge scoring 15 points and pulling down 14 rebounds.

“He was able to get to the glass and get some offensive rebounds, he had some rim protection, he played a very good game for them,” Donovan admitted.

And when it comes to rim protection Bogut and Draymond Green were was good as it gets. The Thunder were just 1-for-9 (11.1 percent) on shots at the rim defended by Bogut and 1-for-7 (14.3 percent) on shots defended by Green.

“At the basket we’ve gotta try and keep a body on him to limit his ability to rebound the basketball,” Donovan said. “And we have to understand he’s also a very good help defender so we’ll have to react well to how they’re playing defensively.”

Donovan is also concerned about what continues to happen with Green and his high kicks. He almost caught Russell Westbrook in the face Thursday night and at times looks like he’s trying out for The Rockettes.

“My biggest thing is, you’re always concerned first and foremost about player’s safety when they’re playing,” Donovan said. “Because listen the game is physical as it is already. There’s gonna be physical contact in there. There’s gonna be some pushing and shoving, holding and gripping. Those are what I would classify as normal basketball plays that are gonna happen. But it’s the league’s responsibility to look at those things that are maybe non-basketball plays.”

So far the NBA has declined to caution Green about his apparent habit of high kicking and if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s probably not going to until someone is seriously injured or that kicking motion triggers a retaliation from someone.

Donovan is proud of how his players have handled those situations in this series.

“For us we’ve just gotta be able to move to the next play and I’ve been really, really pleased and happy with how our guys have tried to stay focused and tried to concentrate on moving to the next play and not getting to the point of being distracted or retaliating. But that’s something the league will have to look at.”

In Game 5 the Warriors had some different guys stepup. Bogut was certainly one and so was Marreese Speights, who had 14 points off the bench. Their reserves scored 30 points. The Thunder bench managed just 13 and Dion Waiters, whose been great in this series, was shutout on 0-for-4 shooting.

“For us it’s gotta be a total team effort,” Donovan said. “(Thursday night) they got great production from their bench, their guys stepped up. Speights gave them a huge boost they got some really good minutes from their bench. Throughout the course of the series our bench has done a very good job as well but going forward in a series like this we’re gonna need all our guys to be ready and to contribute.”

Being at home for Game 6, where the Thunder have blown out the Warriors twice, will certainly help. And the Thunder can expect a raucous environment inside Chesapeake Energy Arena Saturday evening but Donovan says his team can’t rely on the energy from the crowd.

“It’s a great, great environment but I think as a player, if you’re looking for the crowd to inspire you to do your job, I think you’re making a mistake. I’ve always been a big believer that the performance on the floor creates the crowd. Our crowd has been great when we haven’t played particularly well and they’re tried to lift us back up but we’re responsible for how we play inside the lines and we’ve gotta be able to focus on that.”

The Thunder will shootaround Saturday morning and coaches will go over the final game plan with the players and go over whatever changes might be recommended to counter what Steve Kerr and his coaches came up with in Game 5 and what could be coming in Game 6.

Tipoff is set for a few minutes past 8 o’clock and you can see the game exclusively on TNT.

 

OKC wants to make it interesting now. Golden State wins Game 5 in Oakland.

By Suave Francisco

Neither team played great, but obviously Golden State played a tad bit better tonight. Oklahoma City dropped Game 5 to the Warriors 120-111 to even the series to 3-2, in favor of the Thunder with Game 6 headed back to the Chesapeake Energy Arena. 

Oklahoma City lost this game because of a few reasons. 

First and foremost, lopsided free throw attempts. I've never been one to blame referee's for the overall outcome of a game, but the free throw discrepancy was evident. In what was a physical game, Golden State shot 34 free throws and OKC shot 24. The Thunder weren't any more physical than Golden State. Both teams were fouling a lot, therefore, the foul shot attempts should've been a little closer than they were and the game should've been closer as well. However, that's not the only reason they lost. The Thunder struggled in a few other aspects of the game. 

Golden State's Andrew Bogut has been ineffective this entire series, and that's one of the main reasons the Thunder, for the most part, had their way with Golden State almost throughout. Tonight he finished with 15 points, and 14 rebounds on 7-9 shooting. He also played 30 minutes. They cracked the code for at least one game. Rebounding also played a huge role in the Warriors success. They didn't out-rebound the Thunder but they tied them 45-45 in that category, which they can consider a successful night. If OKC doesn't win the rebounding battle by a convincing number, they are going to have problems, because if they can't dominate Golden State's frontcourt, what can they beat them in? Shooting? No. Post play has been the key to them winning these games and it still is. 

Not to give criticism that seems cliche when OKC loses, but Russell Westbrook shot a little bit too much today, 28 times. Honestly, it's really not the number of shots he took per say, it's the shot selection. At times, he looked like the Russell Westbrook of old, not the Russell Westbrook the world has been ranting and raving about all series. I saw him reverting back to Game 1 of the San Antonio series again at times. Not quite as bad as that game, but it wasn't good. His eight assists were great! but the seven turnovers almost trump that stat. The Golden State Warriors found a way to get to Russell and his teammates defensively so that not only was he denied many quality shots, he couldn't get his teammates the ball in scoring position. 

I mean, getting steals, I don’t know if that’s just— that’s a part of playing defense, but he’s pretty good, but he doesn’t guard the best point guards. I think they do a good job of putting a couple guys on Russell from [Klay] Thompson to [Andre] Iguodola, and Steph, they throw him in there sometimes. He moves his feet pretty well. He’s good with his hands. but, you know, I like our matchup with him guarding Russ.
— Kevin Durant on if Stephen Curry is an underrated defender.

Immediately after that question was asked, Russell chuckled, and continued to smirk as Kevin gave his answer. 

Dion Waiters has been the X-factor for this Thunder team all postseason seemingly, but he didn't show up today at all, laying an egg in the scoring column on four shot attempts. His plus/minus was also a team low -18 for the game. He played 26 minutes, and that hurt the team. Coach Billy Donovan put Anthony Morrow in for 7:30 and he scored 10 points on 4-4 shooting. You'd think he should have stayed in the game, especially late but he didn't and it's because he got burned on defense on multiple occasions. You can't have any weak links on the perimeter if you are playing Golden State. 

It's not the time to panic if you are Oklahoma City, though. The deal is, they have two games to win one and one of those games are at home, Saturday night where Golden State looked rather mediocre all series.

Durant: "We Gotta Throw The First Punch"

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The Thunder have a chance to do something tonight almost no one thought they could do...closeout the Golden State Warriors in five games.

Kevin Durant, who has said closeout games are always the hardest to play in series, told reporters in the Bay Area today “we gotta throw the first punch.”

You figure he was speaking figuratively, not literally, but given the things that have happened in this series so far, maybe not.

Since the Thunder routed the Warriors the last two games Durant and his teammates may be thinking get off to a fast start, don’t let the Warriors think they have much of a chance and maybe they won’t have.

But KD also said he knows it won’t be easy.

“This team is gonna come out and play extremely hard, so we gotta throw the first punch, it’s gonna be a battle all night.”

Billy Donovan, who so far during this playoff run in his rookie NBA season has appeared to outcoach Rick Carlisle, Gregg Popovich and now Steve Kerr, also expects nothing will be easy on the floor inside Oracle Arena.

“They are a team that at home is great in transition,” he said, “so we have to put a premium on things tonight like our ability to take care of the basketball, our ability to rebound the basketball, our ability to communicate and defend in a loud environment.”

The sound of the crowd isn’t the only noise the Thunder need to try their best to ignore. They also can’t afford to listen to all the people (including me) writing and talking about how well they’re playing, how good the defense has been, how now the Thunder appear to be the best team in basketball and how there’s no way they can lose this series at this point.

“I think a lot of times you can get caught up with things surrounding the game, but the reality is what we have control over is what’s gonna take place between the lines and how well we can concentrate collectively as a group on the things that we need to do.”

Durant is just 27 but he’s a playoff veteran, he’s seen teams (including his own) falter in that closeout game and fumble away an opportunity to end a series and he doesn’t want that to happen tonight.

“We have a 3-1 lead but we’ve seen teams come back from 3-1 down and go on to win the series. So we have to stay in the moment and not worry or think about anything else but we we need to do tonight.”

It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out, what adjustments are made and then countered. Golden State’s season is on the line tonight so if anyone makes a drastic move it will likely be Kerr, throwing out almost anything, maybe a super-small lineup?

The Warriors looked like they had already lost the series the way they responded to questions after Game 4. You would have to think those thoughts are out of their minds now and they have a plan in place.

You can also bet Billy D and his staff are ready the counter moves and maybe since Durant was talking so  much about taking it to the Warriors early maybe Donovan has yet another surprise coming for the defending champs.

Like I said, fascinating.

Win or lose the Thunder will be flying back home tonight and team officials said they expected to be back at the general aviation terminal at Will Rogers World Airport around 2:30am. Hundreds of Thunder fans are sure to greet them and will be hoping to see a Western Conference Championship trophy’

Tipoff is set for 8 o’clock Oklahoma time on TNT. Should the Thunder lose tonight, Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals will be Saturday evening at The Peake.