On Saturday night, the Golden State Warriors overcame a late Oklahoma City Thunder lead to save the their season from the inevitable tag of underachievement that was set to ensue after a loss. Once again, the Warriors were led by Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, who teamed up to hit key shots in the fourth quarter. These shots, coupled with several head-scratching decisions by Oklahoma City’s superstars, were the difference in the tight Western Conference affair. In the end, Golden State inched by with the seven-point win.
— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) May 29, 2016
The Warriors are clearly at their best when the perimeter games of their two most lethal threats align, and when Golden State needed them most, the duo was able to show off their greatness in Game 6. In the potential closeout game for Oklahoma City, Thompson broke a playoff record by nailing 11 three-point jumpers. He ultimately finished with 41 points and four rebounds. On the other hand, Curry was one assist shy of a triple-double, tallying 29 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists for Golden State.
On the other end of the floor, the Warriors were able to frustrate Oklahoma City’s dynamic duo just enough to salvage a victory. Kevin Durant managed 29 points, but his 10-31 shooting performance was far from his normal efficiency. Next to him, Russell Westbrook had 28 points, but he also finished 10-27 from the field along with five turnovers.
The Warriors outscored the Thunder 19-5 in the last 5 minutes of the game. pic.twitter.com/AMDkyg3p2b
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 29, 2016
In the end, it was NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala who made some of the biggest contributions of the night for Golden State. Warriors coach Steve Kerr elected to bench Harrison Barnes at the start of the second half for Iguodala, who finished with 38 minutes because of the decision. When on the court, Iguodala helped limit both Westbrook and Durant, providing a huge spark on defense when the Warriors needed him most. Late in the fourth quarter, Iguodala showed that Kerr made the right decision, stripping the ball multiple times from Thunder ball handlers in the waning moments of the game.
The defensive effort given by the Warriors’ sixth man was vital to the comeback, and ESPN explained exactly why Iguodala should be praised for his performance.
“Not enough can be said of Iguodala’s defense on Durant. He leaned into the task, tilting and stretching his body into space like a free climber. The longer the game went, the more energy he seemed to summon. On the face of it, holding Durant to 29 points doesn’t seem like a great effort. But consider Durant’s 31 shots and how the Thunder were in the penalty for most of the fourth.”
Once again, Golden State’s impressive late-game surge will raise questions about the Thunder’s ability to close out games down the stretch. Oklahoma City led the Warriors by eight points at the end of the third quarter but were outscored by 15 points in the fourth. Ultimately, the Thunder’s offense turned into isolation plays for either Westbrook or Durant, a trend that certainly satisfied Golden State.
Furthermore, the Warriors had been waiting for Oklahoma City’s three-point shooting to regress to the mean, something that finally happened in Game 6. In the contest, the Thunder connected on only three of their 23 attempts from behind the line, easily their lowest total of the series. Westbrook missed all five of his three-point attempts, which is much more in line with the 30.2 percent mark in his career.
With the win, Golden State’s 73-win season continues for at least two more days. If the Warriors can pull off the rare feat and clinch their 3-1 comeback win over the Thunder, then Golden State will be able to defend their title in the next round. Either way, the Warriors have once again captivated the entire NBA sphere.
[Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images]