Golden State Warriors vs. OKC Thunder Round 2: What We Learned

Feb 27, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after hitting the game winning shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after hitting the game winning shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

The Golden State Warriors defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, this time in Oklahoma City to take a 2-0 series lead after a virtuoso performance by Stephen Curry. What did we learn?

Unlike the first matchup, the Golden State Warriors were outplayed for most of the game by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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The Thunder got off to a great start, taking a page out of the Warriors’ book by employing lots of ball movement. Known for their isolation play from their stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but on this night, the Thunder started the game with nine assists in the first quarter, building a 10 point lead after one. But after the quarter, the Thunder reverted back their isolation play, totaling just 14 assists in the final three quarters and overtime.

The Warriors were awful in the first half with only Curry shooting the ball well. The result was an eleven point deficit and tempers flared in the locker room. It was reported that Draymond Green and head coach Steve Kerr got into an argument about Green’s shooting. After the halftime tirade, the Warriors came out more focused and took control of the game.

They cut the deficit to five but Curry suffered a cringe-worthy ankle injury. The injury occurred after Curry stole the ball from Durant, finding Harrison Barnes for an easy layup. On the play, Westbrook came flying in and landed on Curry’s ankle, causing all Warrior fans to flashback to his  past ankle troubles. Curry came out immediately and appeared he would not return and looking like a major problem going forward. But what happened after that was pure magic because Curry came back later in the third quarter and put on a performance for the ages.

We already knew that Curry is the most unstoppable player in the league but on this night, he played arguably his best game of his career. Curry ended up with 46 points, tying an NBA record 12 threes in the game and breaking his own single-season threes record. Curry hit from everywhere on the floor, including hitting a game-winner from 40 feet. But this game should’ve never got to this point.

Even though, the Thunder struggled in the second half, they had an eleven point lead with less than five minutes left in regulation. At that point, the Thunder went cold and did not score for 3 minutes while the Warriors cut their lead to three. The Thunder did regain control of the game, going up four with less than 15 seconds left in regulation on a Durant wing three. After that, the Thunder completely fell apart.

On the Warriors next possession, they allowed Thompson an easy layup, cutting their lead to two. The Thunder passed it into Durant, who was immediately trapped in the corner, which started the team’s collapse. The Thunder had one timeout left that Durant should have. Instead he wanted to play “hero ball” and threw it towards midcourt. The result was a deflection by Thompson and a steal by Green. After turning it over, Durant compounded his mistake by making another boneheaded play fouling Andre Iguodala with no time left, putting him on the line. Iguodala made both free throws, sending the game to overtime. It was Durant’s fifth foul, which would cost him in the overtime.

In overtime, Durant fouled Curry on a layup attempt, fouling out for the first time in three years and pretty much ending the Thunder’s chances of winning even though they had a five point lead. The Thunder’s other option, Westbrook also made a boneheaded play in the overtime, fouling Thompson on a layup attempt with the Thunder up three. Thompson made the layup and drained the free throw, tying the game with 30 seconds left. Thompson locked up Westbrook on the final possession, leading to Curry’s magnificent finish.

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The Thunder lost this game even though they outrebounded the Warriors by 30 and their dynamic duo combined for 63 points. They lost because their stars could not execute when they needed to most. Instead, they blew a certain win, allowing the Warriors and Curry to steal it in overtime.

In the same situations, the Warriors’ stars execute because of their championship experience. The Thunder do not have this experience and it cost them last Saturday night. They tried to play “hero ball” instead making the correct play. The Warriors don’t have this problem because their offense is predicated on ball movement and getting great shots.

If the Thunder want to compete with the Warriors, they need to stop playing “hero ball” and take a page out of the Warriors’ playbook, like they did in the first quarter. If they do, they will be the Warriors main competition in their attempt to repeat as champions.

With all that said, expect another shootout at Oracle on Thursday night.