Come out and play? Of course the Warriors did. That’s what they do, and that’s what they did better than anyone else for 82 games, or at least 73 of them. And going into halftime, they had a nice ten-point lead — until Steph Curry delivered one of his patented buzzer-beaters. So make that a nice 13-point lead. This was apparently Russell Westbrook’s wakeup call: after a three-point first half, he scored half of the Thunder’s 38 points in the third quarter and was a factor in most of the others. At the beginning of the fourth, Golden State was up only three; halfway through the fourth, the Warriors were down four. The Thunder ran that lead to eight, only to see the Warriors trim it to three in two possessions. And then, there things sat for a couple of minutes; at 1:12 it was 101-100 OKC. Over the next 40 seconds, there followed two Steven Adams free throws — he hit six of nine! — and a Kevin Durant rebound, leading to a pullup jumper. Andre Iguodala came back with a layup to bring the Warriors back to within three; Westbrook sank one of two free throws to make it a four-point spread. The mighty Steph Curry somehow missed, Westbrook got two more free throws, Curry sent up another air ball, and all California is stunned: Oklahoma City 108, Golden State 102.
What happened? Defense, something the Thunder apparently had to nudge into position over an extended period, threw a very damp blanket over the Warriors’ offense in that second half. This is not to say that the usual suspects didn’t get their points — Curry finished with 26, Klay Thompson 25, Draymond Green 23 — but they got them early: 60 in the first half, only 42 in the second, while the Thunder squeaked out, um, 61. Durant’s terrible, no good 10-30 night yielded up 26 points; Westbrook closed out with a game-high 27 and 12 assists; but no one stood taller than Steven Adams, 5-8 from the floor, a 16-12 double-double, and +19 for the night.
Notably, Billy Donovan didn’t uproot people from the bench in a desperate search for some combination of five that might work: the only reserves who saw any playing time were Dion Waiters (10 points), Enes Kanter (8) and Randy Foye (3). I read this as Donovan’s conclusion that the Kanter/Adams Real Big combo wasn’t going to be ideal against the Golden State Small Ball unter Alles routine. Which is why he’s the coach and I’m going to stare at the box score in disbelief for a few more minutes.
Game 2 is day after tomorrow in Oakland. Cardiac patients should probably take precautions.