It was simple enough to write the Warriors off when they were down 3-1, on the brink of elimination (only nine teams have ever come back from such a deficit), but they are not dead yet. The Thunder effectively blitzed them into submission in both games in Oklahoma City, and while Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were busy morphing into their terrifying final forms, Steph Curry looked hobbled and Draymond Green looked overwhelmed. It looked bleak, and the Warriors are a dinged-up version of the juggernaut that won 73 games. They still have a hell of a job in front of them, sure. But they’re plenty capable of winning this series and making it to the Finals, warts and all.
They took a tense 120-111 victory tonight, thanks to Curry’s best game of the series and Andrew Bogut finally showing up. Curry still looks a touch uncomfortable with the ball due to either physical issues or confidence hiccups, but he made up for it tonight by getting as aggressive as he’s been all playoffs. He had five steals, took seven shots in the paint, and got 10 free throws for his trouble (the most he’s taken all postseason). His dagger to end the game had it all.
When the Thunder aggressively attacked him out of pick-and-rolls, he turned their eagerness against them and went straight into the middle of the defense. Kevin Durant and Steven Adams are terrifyingly long defenders, and Curry doesn’t look willing to try popping one in their eye right now, but he’s such a smart finisher around the rim. I don’t even mind his five turnovers because this offense is better when he’s trying shit.
Golden State’s offense is also better when their bigs can give them something, which, finally, Bogut did (Draymond Green, too!). Bogut’s 15 points are the most he’s ever had in a playoff game and his 14 boards were the most this year. For all their operatic tendencies, the Warriors really like using Bogut as an alley-oop hammer, and when the Thunder run out on Curry aggressively, a Bogut smash is a crucial weapon in keeping them honest.
He won’t whip Steven Adams every night, but Golden State needs his defense, rebounding, and, strangely enough, passing.
If the Thunder’s defensive strategy is aggression, the Warriors’ is the opposite. Golden State trotted out a zone and sagged off any tricky perimeter shit the Thunder tried to pull. It successfully frustrated Russell Westbrook into trying to take over the game and pull up off the dribble, which is always the easiest way to make OKC beat themselves. But the zone also kept the Thunder from the line, and they only took 24 free throws.
Kevin Durant had the quietest 40 I’ve seen in the playoffs in a while, and the Thunder have to be encouraged to have been in the game for the duration while never playing particularly well. They are still in control of the series and Golden State hasn’t even approached competency on the road. They’ll be favored to win in Game 6, but should the Warriors win, Game 7 is going to be a tough ask for OKC, especially if Curry continues to get stronger. This series has been so off-kilter that predicting which trend will and won’t continue feels nigh impossible. Maybe Curry looks like the MVP again for the next two games and the Warriors roll or maybe the Thunder go huge and smack Golden State into the earth. Either way, this series rules and, good lord, someone is going to be sorely disappointed to see their season end.