Sunday, May 29, 2016

Warriors - Thunder Game Six: Five Points About Excellence

OKC After Klay Thompson
I'm on vacation and was lucky just to see this game, let alone write about it. So it's the next morning and I'm not going to say anything you probably haven't already thought or considered, but here goes anyway.

> Klay Thompson won this game. Sure, Stephen Curry's late work was essential, Andre Iguodala was the biggest reason why the Thunder's offense became a train wreck late, Steve Kerr did good work in getting around pitfalls, and the entire team pretty much played their "A" game in winning what is, at the moment, a season-saving Game Six on the road. But none of that matters without Thompson, because they aren't even in the frame without their shooting guard.

In the third quarter, when the Thunder kept either scoring with Russell Westbrook's drives or putbacks off the misses, Thompson ate into their lead with 3s instead of 2s. You could see it eat into the Thunder's confidence, with Kevin Durant trying too much, the crowd getting spooked, and the Warriors slowly turning around, player by player. Thompson did all of that. He's the Warrior player who has adapted the most to the Thunder athleticism and length, the one who has tried the most on Westbrook because Curry just isn't up to it right now, the one who kept Game 4 from being a blowout as well.

> Kevin Durant cost his team the game. From questionable shots with a lot of volume to turnovers in transition chances that he normally buries, Durant just wanted this too much, and didn't involve his teammates. It almost didn't matter, because his teammates are playing that well, and Durant brought his full power to defense, so much so that he was still a guy that OKC has to have on the floor. But if bench players play better at home, stars might play worse. I don't think Durant played like this out of bad intention, but wow, what a time to revert to the form that kept your team in the mid '50s on wins, with a lot of fourth quarter fails.

> Golden State is getting smarter. Kerr knows he's got to mix, match and pray with his bigs, rather than just going small and avoiding the problem. Curry is going for contact on his drives to get OKC's bigs into foul trouble, and staying back for rebounds that are all kinds of necessary. Iguodala's locked in on defense, after struggling earlier in the series. It's been an amazing series for growth and transformation, and for GSW's ability to overcome limitations.

> OKC can win Game 7. Sure, they've had their hearts ripped out in this game, but they are still healthy, still have the best overall team, still have the bigs that have made their offense easier when they move, and still have two guys -- Westbrook and Durant -- who can score in any situation, and make the game so much easier for their teammates. They only lost tonight because Thompson was historically great.

But, well, the home team wins 85% of Game Sevens. The Warriors have won two straight elimination games, and will have the Association's most front-running crowd behind them. And the Thunder aren't at their best when dealing with adversity, because Durant and Westbrook are good enough to take over games, and undisciplined enough to fail to realize that teams beat teams, not stars.

> This was one of the five best games I've ever seen. From the jump, it was intense. OKC's runs never looked definitive, and GSW almost never had them, because OKC kept scoring with putbacks. All of the coaching decisions mattered. The game analysts -- Marv Albert and Chris Webber -- were outstanding. I don't remember a single officiating moment that made me wince. Incredible plays had me running around an empty hotel room like a dog who is scared of vacuum cleaners in a vacuum cleaner factory. I kept TNT on all night, and kept waking up to the game replay.

It was just that good.

It was just that much fun to watch.

And Game Seven might even be better.

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