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Sam Amick of USA Today: “Curry swears he’s not hurt, that this has nothing to do with lingering effects of the right knee injury that cost him four playoff games before his May 9 return. Warriors coach Steve Kerr has said the same, noting that there are no restrictions being placed on Curry. But seeing him out of sorts like this after an MVP season that was one of the greatest in the history of the game, it’s only natural to wonder what we’re missing. Yet the truth, that thing that has flipped the Durant narrative on its head, is that the Thunder are making Curry & Co. work in ways that should make any self-respecting superstar want to jump on this Oklahoma City train.”
Tim Bontemps the Washington Post: “After Oklahoma City dismantled the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, most expected the defending champions to deliver a far better effort for Tuesday night’s Game 4. Instead, it became the latest example of the remarkable transformation the Thunder has undergone over the past few weeks.” Keep Reading…
One more. It’s an incredible thing to think about. One more.
That’s what Kevin Durant said as he walked to the bench with the Thunder up 22 with 1:55 left in the fourth quarter. One more win.
With so much talk about Draymond Green and how the Warriors caught a break, the Thunder remained unmoved. The most impressive thing about this team in the postseason has been its focus and resolve, its commitment to blocking out the noise and chatter. They didn’t waver after getting smashed by 32 in San Antonio. They didn’t shake after Game 2 in Oakland. They have remained steadfast and confident. They think they’re good enough. And now they’re proving it.
“I think it’s more of a reflection on the guys in the locker room, to be honest with you,” Billy Donovan said. “I think it has a lot to do with Russell and Kevin’s confidence. I think that trickles down into our team. They are able to put things in great perspective coming off of setbacks. And the one thing about the both of them is that when there is a setback, their ability to bounce back. They don’t wallow in it. They don’t have pity parties. They come back and go to work and try to inject who they are into our team. I think it really helps our team come back and concentrate and try to get better and improve off of maybe a setback.”
The Thunder have been saying since October that this would be a process, that they wanted to play their best basketball when it mattered. They may be a 55-win in name, but they aren’t one anymore. They have discovered themselves, a fearless, terrifying defensive monster that can lean on two of the world’s best scorers when times get tough. In Game 4, it was Russell Westbrook who held off a Klay Thompson push in the third quarter.
So many people — visiting media, mostly — have asked me, “Where the hell did this come from?” It may seem like a huge shock, and it kind of is, but this Thunder team has always been good. They’ve always had it in them. They’ve always had the potential to be something special. They’ve just finally started to unlock it. Billy Donovan deserves a lot of that credit, for staying committed and patient throughout the process, resisting the urge to react to a loss in February. He knew what he was trying to build for, and had the belief it would pay off.
In this series, he’s pulled the plug on big lineups, smartly going back to small to stare the Warriors’ “death lineup” in the face. He’s yanked Enes Kanter, and even reduced Steven Adams’ minutes, leaning on a rejuvenated Serge Ibaka. He’s coached up Dion Waiters. He’s pressed the right buttons with Durant and Westbrook. He didn’t listen to the chatter that Andre Roberson was holding the Thunder back, instead figuring out a way to make the Warriors pay for not guarding him.
“It’s funny,” Donovan said. “Like after Game 2 people are saying to me, is this guy going to even play anymore? Andre’s a good basketball player, and I think sometimes the things that go missing with him is he makes winning plays and he’s a winning player. There’s a lot of things he can do. He offensive rebounds. He slashes to the basket. I have confidence in him shooting the basketball. He’s a great worker.”
The series isn’t over. The Warriors are not going to let go of the rope on their 73-win season easily. The Thunder might have them backed into a corner, but with the series headed back to Oakland, OKC has to have their best prepped and ready. But they are one win away. Just one more performance.
Next up: Game 5 in Oakland on Thursday
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 8:00 PM CST
Thunder leads series 2-1
Playoff Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats – out of 16 teams)
Caution. When I think of this upcoming game, this is the only word I can think of. Yes, the Oklahoma City Thunder completely dominated the Golden State Warriors in a way that hadn’t been seen in the Steve Kerr/Stephen “Basketball Deity” Curry era. But as is the motto of the playoffs: it was but one game. The Warriors didn’t fold after losing a close game in Game 1. And the Thunder didn’t break when they were thoroughly dominated in Game 2. Following this pattern, I fully expect the Warriors to come out prepared and foaming at the mouth for this game. Not only that, but the Warriors have been in this position before. Last season, the Grizzlies and Cavaliers each held 2-1 leads against the Warriors in their respective series. The Warriors went on to win both series in 6 games. Keep Reading…
Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com: “Intent is irrelevant in these matters (it’s really hard to get inside the brain), but even so, kicking your leg up like Green did is super dangerous and also not part of the game — unless you condone flopping. We’ll be hearing about this for years if Golden State moves on.”
Jeff Van Gundy last night: “I truly thought the decision was going to come down to whether he got a two-game suspension or a one-game suspension. I am utterly shocked at the rationale they showed that players normally flail like that. I think it’s going to haunt them because I think it’s going to undermine the credibility from the players’ standpoint that every player, every team gets the same equal treatment under the rules.” Keep Reading…
And the verdict has been reached in BallGate. Draymond Green has been fined $25,000 for kicking Steven Adams in the groin in Game 3, and had his foul upgraded to a flagrant two.
What this means: Nothing, really. It puts him within another flagrant foul of a suspension, but he’s going to play in Game 4. And now we move on.
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Ben Golliver of SI.com: “Adding another level of complexity to the debate: On Sunday, shortly before Game 3 tipped off, the NBA issued a one-game suspension to Cavaliers guard Dahntay Jones for a below-the-belt shot to Raptors center Bismack Biyombo. Did that ruling set a precedent for Green? The NBA looks damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. Suspending Green could easily have series-deciding implications and spark a backlash among Warriors fans over the issue of intent. Not suspending Green, given the Jones suspension and Green’s previous blow, would immediately raise questions about a double standard and superstar treatment. Controversy is guaranteed either way.”
Tim Bontemps of the WaPo: “When the Oklahoma City Thunder is at its best, it makes a basketball court shrink in ways no other team can match. With its combination of size, speed and athleticism, the Thunder can look like it’s playing downhill offensively and with seven or eight players — instead of the usual five — at the defensive end. To say the Thunder was at its best Sunday night, though, would be an understatement. In Game 3 of the Western Conference finals between Oklahoma City and the Golden State Warriors, the Thunder put on the kind of display — the kind of comprehensive beatdown — that had to be seen to be believed.” Keep Reading…