By Addam Francisco
The hype is over! The big game that was really just another game in the whole scheme of things is over with now and Oklahoma City faired pretty well against the (46-4) Golden State Warriors, losing 116-108. However, considering the way the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs got destroyed by the Warriors makes you optimistic about just what Oklahoma City can do against this team when the bench actually plays to their full potential.
Early in the game, well the first half looked like the outcome of this game could very well end up like the Cleveland game or the San Antonio game against the Warriors. Down 73-59 at the end of the half, everyone became concerned, and talks of Oklahoma City's struggling defense started to pop off more than ever, with due reason. 73 points in a half? 55 to 60 points is the norm for OKC here lately, but 73 was a scary number to see. It's like Oklahoma City came out hot, starting the game 9-0 over Golden State but a few big shots from the Warriors' key players brought this squad back into the game, until they took the lead late in the first quarter. The second half seemed completely different though, Stephen Curry wasn't shooting his best (scoring 26 points and 10 rebounds off 1-of-9 from three) and Oklahoma City's defense looked better than it ever has, holding Golden State to an 18-point third quarter. That mixed with great offense from Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Enes Kanter brought the team back and eventually tied the game up. That wasn't enough though, as Golden State hit shots late in the fourth, and Oklahoma City had a hard time getting baskets for the exception of KD and Russell.
Positive things to take away...
There's a lot of things to look at and move forward on with a clear head. While Oklahoma City fans were trying to press the panic button just a few days ago, wanting to trade potentially the whole team to get another defensive guard. As fans should know by now, unfortunately and kind of fortunately, Oklahoma City plays down to their competition, but also play up to their competition. Especially when the spotlight is on them like last night. The Thunder were barely beating these average teams purely because they were playing down to their competition, but it's clear they can step up. Hopefully they realize that they have to come out like they did on Saturday every night, every night. Durant showed up on a big stage as well, scoring 40 points and 14 rebounds off 12-of-25 shooting. Russell had a game, defensively and offensively. He scored 27 points and assisted on 12 baskets, and also played pretty good defense against Golden State's guards. Another player no one probably expected to have a good game was Enes Kanter, who came in and scored 14 points and collected 15 rebounds. Kanter and Steven Adams alone are two major reasons Oklahoma City had some success against this Golden State team. Adams scored 12 points and 8 rebounds.
Things to improve on...
It's always easy to throw in "our best defensive player was hurt," but that's a valid excuse for this game, Andre Roberson is undoubtedly the most talented defensive guard on this team. With him in the game, at 6-foot-7 he would have guarded players like Klay Thompson or even Shawn Livingston who didn't have great games but would've made them struggle even more, while possibly getting a few lobs from Russell in the process, which he's been doing all season. Also, Serge Ibaka and even more so, Kyle Singler didn't show up at all. There were times where Singler just looked lost out there and it really felt like Oklahoma City was playing the Warriors 4-on-5. Oklahoma City also had 15 turnovers to Golden State's 10. There's nothing to panic on though, with this Oklahoma City team seemingly being the only championship contending team that can keep up with Golden State shows that the Western Conference Finals could be a very entertaining series.
Oklahoma falls to (38-14) on the season, which is still third in the Western Conference behind Golden State and San Antonio. The season WILL continue, even though this game had the atmosphere of a championship game 7. Oklahoma City will take on the struggling Phoenix Suns in Phoenix on Monday night. Note: Oklahoma City is 14-4 in 2016 and improving by the game.