It’s been quite a long break compared to what we’re used to in the NBA playoffs, but now it’s back: Golden State Warriors, tied at 1-1 with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, taking their show on the road.
The Thunder couldn’t keep up with Curry for a couple of minutes in the previous game and got blown out. That’s the reality of playing against the Warriors, and the big difference between the first two games. In one of them the Thunder were almost flawless in their way of defending Curry, closing down his passing lanes and forcing the Warriors ball handlers into traffic. The moment they began losing defensive focus in game 2, the floodgates opened and we saw the usual scenes from Warriors games this season.
The key for the Thunder is making this game in which they dominate under the basket, forcing the Warriors to play the kind of basketball they don’t like. They have the size to do it, but it mostly defends on how they’re able to defend the perimeter. Both things are connected, and they might make the difference between staying close or maybe winning and getting blown out. It’s that fine of a line when it comes to playing the Warriors.
I think they just got all the 50-50 balls on the offensive glass. It kind of surprises when guys are running in there because we’re so good in transition. But they were in there and able to get their hands on some basketballs, so you have to give them credit. It’s on us to make adjustments, boxing guys out and putting bodies on them and getting those rebounds. As simple as that. So we can’t have that next game.
The Thunder know it’s about rebounding and not letting the game get out of hand. They can’t beat the Warriors in a three-point shooting contest. Not just because they don’t have the talent for it, but because Russell Westbrook usually drifts away in these situations and makes all the wrong decisions. Yes, Durant can’t lose his head like he did in game 2 after weird calls by the referees against him, including a technical foul, but the decision making of Westbrook, which is always a little more difficult to predict, plays a bigger factor in how well the Thunder play.
Besides executing their usual game plan that includes letting Curry go on one of his “jam sessions” that often results in out-of-this-world performances, the Warriors will try to match the aggression levels by the Thunder, or at least tone them down. They did it very well in the second game, and that is usually up to the bangers of the group: Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, hoping the officials let them get away with whatever it is they do to gain an edge or cancel one out.