The Golden State Warriors didn’t expect to find themselves in this position, and certainly not against the Oklahoma City Thunder: One loss away from elimination, needing to win three games in a row to make it back to the NBA finals.
The NBA playoffs have been filled with contrasts, and especially blowouts. The Thunder play the upset quality of his postseason, if calling a team with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook moving forward an upset fits the entire concept. They threw out the San Antonio Spurs with remarkable defense and discipline, and took advantage of an impressive homestand to put the Warriors on the brink of an early summer vacation, blowing the out twice in Oklahoma City.
The Warriors, right now, seem to be quite clueless as to how things got this way and what to do from here. Steve Kerr is busy putting out fires. From addressing the whole Draymond Green kicking people in the groin “scandal”, to trying and convincing people that Stephen Curry isn’t injured. And if he really isn’t injured, than why is he playing so poorly all of a sudden? He had big games, or more accurately stretches in games, since his return from the knee injury: A two-minute stretch in game 2 against the Thunder that closed the game, and his overtime performance with 17 points against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Some think that the series against the Blazers took out more from the Warriors than the five games were letting on. Maybe the chase after 73 wins has left its mark on this team, with the fatigue and the effort hitting them now, when everything they’ve been working for all season is on the line.
But maybe the Thunder deserve more than a little credit in all of this. In how they’ve been playing great defense on Curry and on the Warriors in general. They’ve been keeping up with him, and switching on him at every screen, even if it means putting Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams on him. The Warriors haven’t figured out how to clear the lanes yet, and the length and quickness of the Thunder players leaves very little open. Add that to Draymond Green struggling with the defense and losing his focus in the series, playing some terrible basketball, and you get a Warriors team that looks slightly frightened and clueless on offense.
Defense? That’s a combination of the Thunder being aggressive and hitting shots for mid range, which the Warriors were living with. But the matchups are bad for them. Thompson is struggling with Westbrook, which leads to foul trouble, and then Curry on Westbrook. Green is wasted on Andre Roberson, and leaves a whole lot of holes defensively for Golden State, who keep playing some kind of 1-4 zone instead of a full man-to-man, which is probably better for them in this scenario.
The Warriors were always confident that they’re always one Curry explosion away from taking the series back by storm. But they’re already two games down, and, well, turns out that besides his struggles, there’s more to this team than his scoring, and if especially Green doesn’t wake up, the Warriors are going to be the most successful NBA team in history to end up with nothing at the end of the season.