By Suave Francisco
Other than Teresa Francisco, yes, my mom, no one saw this coming. This was a big one. Despite a sub-par performance by the Oklahoma City Thunder, they pull out Game 1 versus the Golden State Warriors. This was supposed to be a win by the Warriors. Maybe a close game, but still a win. However, due to an incredible second half by Russell Westbrook, improved defense, and dominance in the paint, OKC pulled one out. I guess you could say Golden State's offensive slump had something to do with that as well.
Oklahoma City started this game out sloppy, with eight turnovers and a plethora of missed free throws throughout the game. Not to mention, Kevin and Russell really didn't have the best shooting night. So before you say "Golden State just didn't shoot well," think...OKC didn't either. Westbrook and Durant combined for 17-51 (33.3 percent) in this game. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 20-57 (35 percent). Also, the Thunder shot 39-89 (43.8 percent) as a team. The Warriors shot 40-91 (44 percent) as a team. So the excuse of Golden State not shooting well doesn't hold much weight.
So, if the Thunder shot horribly and didn't play much better than Golden State, how did they win?
Defense against the Warriors.
OKC's defense was great throughout. They did a great job swarming the Warriors on offense and for once, the Warriors looked rattled during the second half of this game. They were up 13 points at halftime, after a huge buzzer-beater by Curry, and with that momentum going into the half, one would think the Warriors came out in the second half firing. That didn't necessarily happen. Why?
The emergence of Russell Westbrook.
Russell came out in the second half a new man. After being thrown down and taking blows to the face left and right in the second half, he found something in the Warriors' offense to take advantage of and it worked. Like I said, at halftime the Warriors were up 13 points, but Russ only had three. He finished the game with 27. Yes, your math was right! 24 points in the second half from him along with 12 assists, 6 rebounds, and a career-high 7 steals. He shot 7-21 for the game but shot 6-13 in the second half and that's what mattered.
Rebounding and big-man play.
This is the key to the Thunder winning the series right here. If Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Serge Ibaka continue to play well in this series, there may not be a team in the NBA that can beat them in a seven-game series. Definitely not Golden State. OKC's bigs combined for 35 points and 29 rebounds (not mentioning Durant's 10). To be honest, Enes Kanter didn't have a great game. He wasn't as aggressive on the offensive end as he was on the defensive end, and although Oklahoma City should be happy with Kanter's improved defensive awareness, they need him on the other end as well. He could be the X-factor in this series.
I'll also take Andre Roberson scoring 7 points as well. It's not a lot, but it's more than he averages, so it's positive. He's actually averaging 10.5 points in his last two games. Take it or leave it.
This is a huge win, but like Durant said, they didn't win a championship, so they need three more games like this. Seeing Kevin and Russell's lack of emotion following the win was very reassuring. They aren't too happy. They are glad they stole one on Golden State but they know it doesn't mean anything until they reach that magic number four.
Game 2 will be in Oakland, California once again where Golden State will presumably come out stronger. It could actually be one of those spectacular games for Curry, but if OKC elevates their game and continues the defensive intensity and post play, they should still be in good position to get another win.