By Addam Francisco
In what was undoubtedly the best game of the season, and probably the best in the Oklahoma City Thunder's existence, the now (53-5) Golden State Warriors prevail 121-118 in overtime. This was one of those games where you couldn't leave your seat or in some cases even pick up your phone. Two of the NBA's top three teams and three of the NBA's top 5 players battled to the finish and they didn't disappoint.
From the moment fans were allowed into the Chesapeake Energy Arena there was an unusual buzz of energy in seemingly everybody. Let's break this down a little bit.
To start the game, Oklahoma City came out energized and ready to knock off the Warriors. They built an early first quarter lead fueled by Russell Westbrook's hustle both offensively and defensively. It seemed like this team was hitting everything from the field and stopping Stephen Curry and the Warriors on the defensive end. Of course after awhile Golden State started to hit shots, and execute a little bit better on the defensive end, but still OKC performed on a level that we haven't seen at all this year. At the end of the first quarter the Thunder had a 30-20 lead, along with Durant netting 10 points, Russell dishing out 5 assists and containing Curry to just 4 points early on. In the second quarter Oklahoma City continued the dominance, at the time, somewhat containing Steph, and doing the same things offensively and defensively expanding their lead going into halftime to 57-46. Kevin was up to 21 points and 6 rebounds along with Russell's 14 points and 7 assists. Although Curry had an 11 point quarter, Oklahma City was pretty satisfied with the defensive effort, holding a team that averages 115 points per game and often scores 65 points per half to only 46 at halftime. Things were great.
Early on in the third quarter, Curry drove the lane against Russell and made a nice up-and-under assist to his big-man (after he traveled), fell to the ground and sat there in pain as OKC pushed the ball up the court offensively. Steph left the game after that and went straight to the locker room. At this point, Oklahoma City had a 9-point lead and seemed to be in control of the game, without a Curry return being certain. They kept the lead, but late in the quarter Steph returns and started draining 3-pointers from all over the place. At the end of the third quarter Oklahoma City was still up 83-78 even though Golden State made a pretty powerful run to bring them within one point late in the quarter.
The fourth quarter was intense and the ending was pretty controversial. At this point, it looked like OKC may actually pull this game out, but due to Klay Thompson's 9 late quarter points and Curry's 8, they managed to get the Oklahoma City lead down to 2 with just seconds left. At the very end of the game, and the crowd going crazy, Andre Iguodala went up for a last second 15-foot jumper over Durant and missed it. The buzzer rang, the crowd was lit and the Oklahoma City Thunder go on to knock off the Golden State Warriors....right? That's exactly what happened until the crowd saw Durant arguing with the referee, obviously contesting a call made. They called a foul on the shot. Durant seemed obviously upset and so was the crowd, just like they should have been. You don't call a foul like that late in the game, against one of the NBA's best players at home...you just don't, unless it's a clear and obvious foul. Subsequently Andre hit both of the free throws and the game went into overtime, 103-103.
Overtime started out just like the beginning of the game started, on Oklahoma City's side. However another controversial foul called on Kevin disqualified him for the game and the remaining few minutes of the extra period. At this point, fans grew concerned for their Oklahoma City team finishing this game out without the sniper. Honestly the team finished the game pretty well, but two buckets late for Golden state pulled them into a tie with Oklahoma City and on the next possession, Steph brought the ball up the court and seemingly threw up a 30-foot shot with 3.2 seconds left and drained it. This put Golden State up 121-118 and with just .6 seconds left in the game the Thunder weren't able to get a quality shot off and Golden State came back to win the game.
Although the outcome was disappointing, the Thunder have no other option but to use this game as a building block defensively for he rest of the season. It took a long time, but maybe this team has figured out what to do defensively against teams. Kevin ended the game with 37 points and 12 rebounds, Russell had 26 points and 13 assists to go along with that and Serge Ibaka had a very solid game with 15 points and 20 rebounds...five of which were offensive.
Oklahoma City falls to (41-18) on the season, and hits the road for a four game road trip, one of which being against the Golden State Warriors again in California. Monday they will play the Sacramento Kings who typically gives Oklahoma City all they can handle.