It’s gotten to the point where no second half deficit seems to matter, as long as the Warriors kept the game close in the first two quarters. They were down 80-71 in the third quarter, in the third and final time they’ll face the Thunder (in the regular season), and they outscored the Thunder 50-26 in the last 20 minutes.
“We just keep our poise, not try to get it all back in one possession. Stay the course and just chip away at it. We know that we can score in bunches, so we feel like we’re never out of a game, so there’s no need to panic,” said Draymond Green, who had 14 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists while taking a few turns defending Kevin Durant. He also got a dunk to cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 80-75 after catching a ridiculous 80-foot pass from Mo Speights, who raised his arms like Joe Montana after connecting with his teammate.
Yes, it was the bench that (once again) helped prevent the Thunder from gaining a win over the Warriors that they seemed to need badly for several reasons. This time, excellent play early in the fourth quarter from Golden State’s reserves kept this game from becoming another classic. Speights knocked down threes, Shaun Livingston (11 points, 8 assists, strong defense against Durant, game-high +17) was perfect, Leandro Barbosa provided his usual spark, and Andre Iguodala was clearly affected by his injured hamstring but still came through with a dunk and was +9 in just 14 minutes.
“We’re confident coming off the bench,” said Livingston. “They have a real …”
Livingston paused briefly, but his mid-sentence correction spoke volumes.
“They have a good team, but I think we have a deeper team. We try to come in and all do our part and do our jobs and hopefully overwhelm them over a 48-minute game.”
And that’s what happened. Again.
Oklahoma City is thought by many to be the Warriors’ toughest matchup, but they don’t fall into the same pattern as other difficult teams this Golden State squad has faced. The pattern in the playoffs was easy to spot: a bigger, plodding team (Grizzlies, Cavs) got the Warriors to play slow, grind-it-out ball, the Warriors figured out a strategic move that would negate their opponents’ advantage (Andrew Bogut on Tony Allen; Iguodala in the starting lineup and harassing LeBron James), and never looked back.
That’s not how these three games (in the span of just 27 days) against the Thunder have gone. The Warriors were mostly outplayed in their first two meetings with the Thunder, but found dramatic ways to pull out both games. Oklahoma City had an enormous rebounding edge in Saturday’s epic overtime battle, but the Warriors didn’t radically change their rotation or matchups, although they kept Harrison Barnes away from Durant as often as possible.
Also, the Warriors are much better now than they were when they won the title. They’re 11-0 against the Spurs, Cavs, Thunder, Clippers and Raptors, the five teams immediately behind them in the standings. They’re just better than everyone else, and with each easy route and comeback victory alike, their confidence grows.
They also pay close attention to everything that’s said/written/whispered/tweeted/Barkley’d about them. So even with Stephen Curry playing on a sore ankle (33 points, multiple long threes in front of Prince, and a beautiful lefty layup early in the game that might have been his prettiest move/shot of the game) and Iguodala looking somewhat gimpy, they wanted to send yet another message to a contender. Mission accomplished.
— The Warriors held Russell Westbrook to 34.7% shooting, 16.7% on threes this season. “You just try to guard him and make him take shots that are rushed,” said Green. “As great as he is, he want to get to the basket. He want to get to that midrange pullup. If you take those two things away and make him take shots he don’t want to take, hopefully they won’t go in. But he’s such a great player, you really just try to make things tough on him and hopefully he’ll miss.”
— Here’s the full video of Green’s postgame interview.
— The Warriors completed a few full-court passes in this game, none prettier or more successful than this one.
“He made a brilliant full-court football pass,” said Steve Kerr. “The man has an absolute cannon. He throws a football about 75 yards.”
Wait, can Speights really fling the pigskin that distance?
“Yeah, it’s about that. I want to challenge some quarterbacks out there,” he said. “Nah, that might be too big a challenge.”
— What about Speights’ newly found touch from deep? Actually Speights has always been a good long-distance shooter, but he was hesitant to stretch his range past 18-20 feet.
“If I’m open (behind the arc), coach says I can shoot it, so that’s a blessing,” Speights said. “They’ve been said (I had the green light), but I just didn’t shoot it in the game. Stick to my midrange game. Then I started hitting a couple when coach (Kerr) got back. Said I could shoot.”
— Klay Thompson only went 1-for-7 on threes, but he went 9-for-12 on his other shots. It’s always been a good sign when Thompson scores points in the paint, and he showed nice touch inside and took great routes to the rim. He should’ve been 10-for-12 on twos, but instead of laying one in he tried to dunk and regretted that decision instantly when Serge Ibaka came out of nowhere and swatted it away. We all know what Jim Barnett would’ve said after that play.
— Prince was at the game — for the first half, anyway — sitting next to Joe Lacob and carrying the shiniest walking cane in existence. The players were all excited to see him, and Lacob tried chatting with him to no avail. Apparently Prince isn’t all that talkative.
— Kerr and Durant conversed for a while during some foul shots on the other end of the floor. Kerr playfully brushed aside a question about what was said, telling reporters that he asked Durant where he ate the night before and his favorite San Francisco restaurants. Right after saying that, Kerr probably realized he made it sound like he was recruiting Durant, although pretty much everything the Warriors say about Durant could be perceived that way after the Adrian Wojnarowski story from a while back.
— The Warriors are 55-5. They’ve only won 55 games four times in 70 seasons. They’ve won 44 straight regular season home games, tying the Bulls’ record from March 30, 1995 to April 4, 1996. The Warriors can/should/will beat that record on Monday night against Orlando.