Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Thunder - Warriors Game 7: What A Wonderful War

After War, Hugs
It's over, folks, and I miss it already.

Here's the thing about pro hoop: the best team almost always wins in a 7 game series. There are upsets, sure, because sometimes circumstances change from injury or developing talent, but there are too many shots taken, too many plays made, for statistical quirkery to rule the day. Single games, sure. That's why the NCAA tournament is fun.

The Warriors were down 3-1 in this series for absolute cause. They were hammered on the boards. They didn't have runs unless they were making 3-pointers over 7-footers with absurd wingspans and quicks. Their bench, which routinely turns good teams into hamburger, was hit or miss for most of the series. Their vaunted Death Lineup from going small was getting crushed, and there was no obvious coaching move to make to change the way things were going.

They won anyway.

I'm still trying to figure out how.

Part of it was that the Thunder, as good as they are, are just flawed. Hero Ball rules the day, and as good as Russell Westbrook is, his gifts are spent collecting 2s in an era where 3s rule the day. He was also 28 for 76 in the last 3 games, which is, um, not good on all kinds of levels.

In tonight's game, the Thunder guards couldn't get it done, but still kept shooting. Kevin Durant might have spent his last game in the laundry as a decoy, and while some of that has to be the work of Andre Iguodala, the man just didn't get enough shots. HC Billy Donovan got away from C Stephen Adams after Curry made a couple of ridiculously hard makes from the arc on switches, as if anyone else (Dion Waiters?) was doing any better on him from out there.

One play in particular, from this game, summed up the series to me. OKC was up in the second quarter. Thompson missed his first six shots. The Dub offense was as bad as it has looked all year. And then Westbrook missed a 3, an absurd try airball. OKC lost a little drive on defense on the next possession, allowing Thompson to get open for his first 3-point make. And instead of pushing the lead out to realms that would have made for real doubt and discomfort, or for Donovan to think about swapping in benchies to keep his horses fresh for the finish, they had to keep pushing on the gas pedal to try to keep the lead.

In the second half, the Thunder started to see the second chance points go away, mostly because they stopped giving Adams minutes. Curry and Thompson made insane looks from the arc. When Shaun Livingston got to the rim on a transition dunk, with the Thunder not getting back and then taking a weak effort foul at the rim, it looked over. The Warriors started getting contributions from deep benchies like Anderson Vareajo. And short of a late flurry by Durant, aided and abetted by a defensive effort that showed how they can force turnovers almost at will, it was.

If OKC and GSW swapped coaches, I think OKC wins this series. If OKC makes a number of looks at the rim that were well within their wheelhouse, it's close enough to make the Dub turnover issues give us a game that might have been decided in the final minute; we didn't really get one of those, despite the series being so good otherwise.

But at the end of it all, the Dubs are the better team... because, as simple as it seems, Curry and Thompson just made so many 3s (30 in the last 2 games), that they had to be.

I only hope that the Finals are half as good as this series.

See you Thursday.

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