Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Thunder-Warriors Game One: OKC Steals Ugly

Someone Stepped On My Hoop
Part of the fun of a seven game series is how little games can resemble each other, from contest to contest. It's rare that things start with 100% intensity or proficiency, especially when teams have had time off, and that was in clear evidence tonight. Neither team played all that well down the stretch, the refs blew a clear travel to help close the door on the home team late, and OKC has negated the home-court advantage, while winning three straight road games against teams that went something like 80-3 at home this year. Crazy, and We've Got Drama. Dirty heroin hoop, cut with a baking soda fourth quarter, but we're taking it just the same.

What I found telling about the game wasn't that Stephen Curry was great middle and middling late, that Klay Thompson wasn't able to keep up the pace after a great first half, or that the Dub bench didn't give them the same lift in the second half that they did in the early going. (And that's a very troubling trend for them, given that the Blazers led a lot of their series, and Portland isn't as good as the Thunder.)

No, what was more telling was that the Thunder got worked when they went big with Enes Kanter and Stephen Adams on the court at the same time... but HC Billy Donovan stuck to his guns and got back in the game when PG Russell Westbrook finally started hitting some shots. The NBA has been filled with teams that have thought they'd bully the Dubs, but went away from it when it stoped working... but not Donovan and the Thunder. And it led to OKC getting the offensive boards they needed to prolong and slow down the game.

Now, it's pretty unlikely that this move is going to work all series long. OKC routinely puts people on the floor that the Dubs don't have to guard, and the season-long bench issues aren't likely to just reverse because OKC is finally healthy now. In the fourth quarter tonight, you saw Hero Ball and Kevin Durant missing a lot, and any number of opportunities for the Dubs to step up and win. Neither team really played their "A" game for more than brief stretches tonight -- most notably, a sequence in the second quarter, where Draymond Green had a great blocked shot and posed, then Serge Ibaka blocked an even more impressive one and posed better -- but that doesn't usually happen in Game One anyway.

I'm just hoping that this was the worst game of the series, and that we get six more of them, because, um, yeah. I waited all year for this Warrior team to have to dig deeper, and for the Thunder to finally get their act together, and both may be happening. So long as it takes weeks to decide, I'm good.

Finally, this. There's a terrible old cliche of how the series doesn't begin until the home team loses, and you can thank Phil Jackson for that moment of idiocy. But there's a gram of truth in the kilo of flotsam, and watching Kerr adjust could be pretty interesting. See you all again on Wednesday.

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