Golden State Warriors Defy History, Defeat OKC 96-86 To Reach NBA Finals

Warriors Clay Thompson

Klay Thompson hoist up the NBA’s Western Conference Finals trophy after the Golden State Warriors closed out the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 7. The Warriors advance to the NBA Finals to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. (OBSERVER photo by Antonio R. Harvey)

OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors not only set a regular-season record with 73 wins against nine losses. The defending champion became the 10th team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in a playoffs series.

The Warriors knocked off the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-88 at the Oracle on May 30 to concluded a three-game win streak in the Western Conference Finals and return to their second-straight NBA Finals.

“Everybody made an impact on the regular season, the whole playoff run and this series (against OKC),” Warriors superstar point guard Stephen Curry said during the trophy presentation following the game. “Everybody stays ready. It’s hard to come back from a 3-1 deficit. But obviously, Dub Nation came strong tonight.”

Curry, the league’s MVP, finished with 36 points, eight assists, five rebounds, and made seven 3-point shots for the Warriors, who will face the Cleveland Cavaliers, again, for the NBA title. Klay Thompson added 21 points, five rebounds and connected on six treys after a shaky start for Golden State.

Draymond Green contributed 11 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two blocked shots in 40 minutes for Golden State. The Warriors had to overcome a 13-point deficit in the first half and a series of comeback tries from OKC to pull out the victory.

“We were not only down 3-1. We were blown out in two straight games,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “We survived by the skin of our teeth. We were able to pull it out, and we’re moving on.”

Kevin Durant had 27 points, seven rebounds, and three assists for the losing Thunder. Russell Westbrook scored 19 points, dished out 13 assists, and grabbed seven rebounds for the Thunder. OKC once controlled its own destiny, but failed to win at least two games in Oakland and one at home.

“It hurts to lose. Especially when you’re up 3-1,” said Durant. “It sucks to lose. But everybody fought hard every single minute they were on the court.”

The Warriors were down 22-15 with 2:34 left in the first quarter while every starting Thunder player had scored at this point. Shooting 10-for-28 from the floor, OKC lead 24-19 at the end of the quarter. Andre Iguodala, who started the game in place of Harrison Barnes, had zero points in the first quarter.

After a spectacular shooting performance in Game 6, which resulted in 41 points, Thompson missed his first seven shots of the game before nailing a trey with six minutes to go in the second quarter. He backed it up with two more 3-point shots to cut OKC’s led 37-33. The Thunder were up by 13 points.

The Thunder went up by 11 points, but held on to lead 48-42 at the half. Enes Kanter came off the bench to drop eight points in eight minutes in the first half for OKC. Thompson made another shot beyond the arc to give him 12 points in the second quarter.

“Yes, I did miss the first seven shots,” Thompson told The OBSERVER following the game. “In Game 7, there was no time to be sulking that you missed your first seven. It was gut-check time. At the end of the game you don’t worry about stats. It’s the W that you want.”

The Warriors and OKC shot 38.6 percent and 40 percent, respectively, from the field in the first 24 minutes. The Thunder also had 22 points in the paint and 29 rebounds in the first half.

The Warriors made four straight 3-point shots to tie the game up 54-54, the last shot by Curry with seven minutes left in the third. Curry made another trey to give Golden State a 57-54 lead. Golden State went on to run the score to 71-58 on a basket by Anderson Varejao.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also elected to go with Leandro Barbosa, who also scored on Golden State’s scoring tear. The Warriors outscored OKC 27-12 in the third quarter and ended the 12-minute stint leading 71-60.

When the game looked like it was out of hand, OKC charged back to trail 90-86 on a shot by Durant with 1:40 left to play in the game. At the 1:18 mark, Serge Ibaka fouled Curry’s 3-point attempt. Curry made all three free throw shots.

With 26 seconds left to play, Curry made his last trey of the night to give the Warriors a 96-86 margin and put the game out of reach for OKC. Green said OKC made the road tough for the Warriors.

“That’s a great team we just beat,” Green said. “It wasn’t easy.”

The Golden State Warriors are 4-4) all-time in Game 7 of a playoff series, including 3-1 mark at home. The game at the Oracle was the first Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals since 2002, when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings in OT to move on to the NBA Finals.
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer