The problem for the Oklahoma City Thunder in their Western Conference Finals series? Their margin of error is almost non existent defensively, and they especially can’t afford Kevin Durant losing his head, or Russell Westbrook running on empty.
Durant lost all focus and concentration when the refs pinned him with a technical foul there was no need in giving him. It followed an arguable foul (it probably was anyway) on Stephen Curry, giving him three shots. Durant argued just like Draymond Green loves to do six, seven times each game, and was probably less aggressive in his behavior and language. But he picked it up, Curry went on his incredible scoring run, and the Thunder sunk to the same lows they reached in their opening game of the series against the Spurs.
Westbrook didn’t have one of those games when he tries to do too much and destroys his team. But he wasn’t the same player from two days before. He didn’t have that urgency in his play, made mental mistakes on defense, and that is where the balance point for the Thunder resides in this series. Durant keeping his cool, Westbrook maintaining a balance between his usual fire and not letting him steer of the path towards a huge upset.
Durant and Westbrook might believe they can outgun anyone and everyone, but trying to outscore the Warriors by simply matching them shot for shot is a dead end, and will only lead to disappointment and a playoff exit. Putting all their energy in executing a certain defensive plan is what will give the Thunder their best shot of winning this series. Stopping the ball movement on the perimeter, and funneling the Warriors towards Ibaka and Adams.
Some blowouts don’t hurt as much as others. That’s probably the question many are asking themselves: The Thunder bounced back from a blowout to outplay and shut down the San Antonio Spurs with great defense and just enough offense. It seems like a much more difficult task to make it the same kind of game and basketball style against the Warriors. Billy Donovan has a difficult task of mixing in fast with slow and keeping his players in a certain kind of mindset for a few more games. It might sound unfair that the Thunder can’t really afford to make mistakes, but to beat great teams, you often need to do something very special.