The Oklahoma City Thunder handed the Golden State Warriors their first home playoff loss, 108-102, on Monday night to take a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals. Here are my five takeaways from Oracle Arena:
▪ No. 1: The Warriors take (and often make) shots other teams wouldn’t dream of attempting. But that doesn’t mean they have to force quick threes every … single … time.
Oklahoma City took advantage of that tendency, especially as Golden State struggled from the field (6 of 23) in the fourth quarter while scoring just 14 points.
Let’s not go overboard crediting the Thunder’s defense. It was more about the Warriors’ poor (and often hasty) shot selection.
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“A lot of quick shots, way too many quick shots,” coach Steve Kerr said afterward. “Five minutes left in the game and we’re down four or whatever, and we were acting like we had 20 seconds left.”
Draymond Green agreed: “I think we were very careless. Everything was rushed. We lost our poise.”
Sometimes those shots go in and it’s a good feeling, you keep the crowd into it. But tonight that didn’t happen.
▪ No. 2: The Warriors finished with 14 turnovers, which isn’t an especially high number. But half were committed by two-time MVP Stephen Curry.
Curry’s final line: 26 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and seven turnovers. No one else on the team had more than two.
Live-ball turnovers off ill-advised and lazy passes are especially damaging against the Thunder, who routinely turn those into open-court dunks.
“We have to be better at being us,” Curry said.
Usually when you turn the ball over on them, they’re going to dunk. They’re that athletic.
▪ No. 3: Kevin Durant took 30 shots and made 10. Russell Westbrook took 21 shots and made seven. So it’s not as if Oklahoma City’s 1-2 punch landed devastating blow after devastating blow. (Westbrook scored 19 of his 27 points in the third quarter.)
But take a close look at the box score. Everyone else on the Thunder shot the ball well with only Serge Ibaka (5 of 11) finishing below .500 from the field – and just barely.
That bodes well for Oklahoma City’s chances the rest of the series.
We were down early and didn’t give up. They hit a tough three going into the half. We didn’t hang our heads. When they hit tough shots, we just kept playing.
▪ No. 4: This is the Warriors’ seventh playoff series under Kerr. In the previous six, Golden State went up 1-0 with a Game 1 victory.
Things are different this time, though Kerr wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re desperate.
“Our players know that to win the next one would be good, right? Yeah,” Kerr said. “So we don’t want to go down 2-0. I don’t need to tell our players, hey, get desperate because we’ve got to win Game 2. They feel it, so we’ll come out and play better.”
Game 2 is Wednesday night.
▪ No. 5: The Thunder have been around long enough to know a Game 1 win doesn’t mean much. Heck, just take a look at San Antonio’s 124-92 thrashing of Oklahoma City in the previous series, won by the Thunder in six.
Which is why you saw a rather nonchalant postgame celebration by Durant, Westbrook, et al.
“What’s to celebrate?” Durant asked. “We didn’t win anything. We didn’t win a championship.”