If it wasn’t for Andre Iguodala hitting a buzzer-beater, game winning shot, there would have been many wondering just how the Golden State Warriors managed to drop a 14-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, even if it was to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook thought he had the game winner himself a few second earlier, but his incredible game fell just short of the mark in the 115-116 loss.
Iguodala looks more and more like the pickup of the season. He’s playing more like a point guard than a wingman, finishing with 14 points and 9 assists, averaging 6.1 dimes a game, but it’s more than just his numbers. Defense isn’t the best example in the shootout against the Thunder, but there’s no doubt there isn’t a single aspect of the Warriors game that isn’t improved thanks to him.
Westbrook has done the same (almost) for the Thunder since returning early from his injury. He finished with 31 points on 13-of-20 from the field, mostly on pull up jumpers that usually don’t drop as well for him, including the three point shot from way beyond the arc to give the Thunder a 115-114 lead with 2.2 second to go. This is the second consecutive loss for the Thunder since his return, although it probably has to do with defense than Westbrook’s offense, averaging 21 points per game since his return.
But there’s no doubt his defense, especially with the Thunder missing Kendrick Perkins at the moment, isn’t helping. Not putting a sufficient effort against Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, not to mention getting lost in transition and taking it quite slow when it’s time to hustle back on defense.
The Thunder were in trouble during the fourth quarter, but Kevin Durant picking up a fifth foul was the best thing to happen to them. The Warriors focused so hard on trying to foul him out they stopped playing basketball, allowing their 14-point lead to vanish, as Harrison Barnes and David Lee struggled to get anything done in the post.
At least Iguodala didn’t hit his game winning shot on him. Westbrook was covering Stephen Curry, finishing the game with 22 points. Klay Thompson got the ball inside, and Iguodala didn’t hesitate (there wasn’t any time for hesitation) and hit a big shot of Thabo Sefolosha, usually the Thunder’s best perimeter defender.
Those are the moments when your mind is just racing. When Klay threw the pass, I was thinking I could get to the basket. As soon as the ball hit my hands, my feet were set just to catch, turn around and shoot — something I worked on a lot throughout my career. The situation was there and everything just worked out.
The Warriors have no problem trying to beat teams shot for shot. They feel like a more complete side than they were a season ago, while Thompson and Curry are better scorers and better decision makers than they were in the second season under Mark Jackson. The Oklahoma City Thunder have their own set of issues, despite the high scoring games, and it’s more than just Perkins going missing, as the same issue of lazy defense from star players and relying too much on individual heroics than actual team basketball keeps coming back to haunt them.