OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oklahoma City Thunder languished behind for most of Game 1 in the Western Conference Finals, down by double-digits three-quarters of the way.
But in the last 12 minutes, the Thunder, the squad that eliminated San Antonio in the second round, found a path to beat the NBA champions, which eradicated a sluggish start.
Russell Westbrook scored 24 of his 27 points in the second half and Kevin Durant had 26 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals to help OKC win the first game 108-102 at the Oracle. Westbrook also had 12 assists, seven steals, and six rebounds.
The Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said his team had to know that beating the Warriors on their floor was never meant to be an easy task and that notion had to be addressed first if OKC wanted to be victorious.
“The first thing is to embrace the fact that it’s going to be hard,” said Donovan, a first-year NBA coach. “That’s the first thing. It’s not going to be easy and it was a struggle tonight. But I thought we had some resilience and resolve and we kind of pushed through.”
Stephen Curry had 26 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, three steals for the Warriors, who set a record with 73 regular-season victories. Curry also had seven turnovers
The Warriors led most of the way, including a 60-47 halftime lead. But a bevy of quick-trigger shots, by many of the players outside of Curry, doomed them in the end. The league’s MVP knew it was a different Warriors team that lost to the Thunder.
“We got rushed a little bit and tried to go for the home-run plays,” Curry said. “Sometime it worked. But we got out of character a little bit. It’s something we’ll learn going forward.”
Klay Thompson added 25 points, nine rebounds, and four assists while Draymond Green had 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two blocked shots for the Warriors. Golden State collected 16 points from its bench, one of the top-scoring units in the league.
“The game didn’t go their way,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said of his bench. “It’s not always points that we look for from our bench. But it was a tough game for our whole team.”
Harrison Barnes and Curry had eight points each to lead the Warriors to a 27-21 first-quarter lead. Durant (three) and Westbrook (two) combined for five of the Thunder’s turnovers during the opening quarter.
Westbrook bumped his head on the hardwood behind a flagrant foul by Andrew Bogut with 5:37 left in the first quarter. Westbrook made one of two free throws and stayed in the game.
In the second quarter, that Warriors’ run it happened like OKC knew it would. The Warriors ran off a 10-3 run to increase their lead 37-24, topped off with basket by Leandro Barbosa.
The Warriors managed to stay up by 10 points most of the quarter and led 60-47 at the half when Curry nailed a 3-point shot at the buzzer.
Westbrook went down again to the floor, this time on a collision by Thompson with 25.6 seconds left before the half. Thompson was called for a foul.
Westbrook was 1-for-5 in the first quarter and missed all three of his shots from the field in the second quarter, despite having eight assists and three steals. With a little rest, he found his offensive rhythm.
Westbrook scored seven straight points to cut the Warriors lead 68-66 in the third quarter. He ended up with 19 points in the third quarter alone and added three assists with four steals. Warriors led 88-85 after three quarters.
“It’s that time of the year where you’re gonna get hit, but you have to find a way to get back up,” Westbrook told The OBSERVER. “I think my teammates did a great job of constantly keep trusting in me and my abilities in helping us win this game.”
No sooner than the start of the fourth quarter, Durant had dropped a 3-point basketball and Dion Waiters’ layup gave OKC a 90-89 edge margin at the 10:30 mark. The Thunder went on to stretch their lead 99-93 after a Westbrook basket with 5:02 left to play.
Barnes made a eight-foot shot to make it a one-point deficit for the Warriors. But Steven Adams, a 50-50 free-throw shooter, made both of his shots at the charity stripe to give the Thunder a three-point edge. Durant, who missed seven previous shots, knocked down one from 17-feet away and Westbrook made his last three free throws for the win.
Curry’s look on his face following the game was of disappointment, though he and the Warriors know that there’s more work to be done, starting with Game 2 on Wednesday.
“We’re gonna have to watch some good film (Tuesday) and figure out what exactly went wrong down the stretch,” Curry said. “It’s a long series. Obviously, it’s not a good feeling losing Game 1 at home. It’ll be a different situation to try to bounce back. But I think it’s fun to have this opportunity to come back to show what we’re made of.”
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer