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“We Ain’t Going Home”: Can the Warriors win in OKC?

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After two consecutive losses on Oklahoma City’s home court, the Dubs returned to Oracle and pulled out the victory needed to keep their title hopes alive. Normally they rely on their creativity and loose offense, but in this win-or-go-home game against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Warriors focused on their defense to win the game.

In the first half of the past two games, the Warriors allowed the Thunder to score 72 points. In Game 5, the Warriors kept the Thunder to only 50 points in the first half. Andrew Bogut was one of the main reasons the Warriors were able to keep the Thunder from easily scoring.

In Games 3 and 4, the Thunder averaged 55 points in the paint. In Game 5, the Thunder only scored 30 points in the paint. Early fouls forced Bogut to sit on the bench in the two previous games. Before last night’s game, Steve Kerr challenged the 7-foot Aussie to play with more control and energy, and Bogut stood up to the challenge. He finished the game with a career post-season high of 15 points along with 14 rebounds and 2 blocks. He even played 30 minutes on the court compared to the meager 11 and 12-minute outings he had in the two games prior.

Draymond Green looked more engaged defensively than any other game this series. He spent most of Game 5 connected to Serge Ibaka, but he constantly spied the ball handler and hovered in the paint during drives. Green finished the night with 11 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 blocks. Green jumped sky high for his fourth block against Russell Westbrook who watched his layup attempt get sent into the stands. Green’s most impressive play, however, occurred in the middle of the third quarter. The Thunder turned the Warriors’ 8-point halftime lead into a 1-point game. With the momentum pointing in the Thunder’s direction, Westbrook led the fastbreak, but lost the ball near the free throw line. Bogut picked up the loose ball and threw a full court touchdown pass to Draymond. He finished the play with a tough and-one layup in traffic. His patented bicep flex told everyone in the building that he was back after his slumps early in the series.

draymond_green flex

The Warrior’s unanimous MVP had a night of his own. He scored 31 points including 12 in the final 6 minutes of the game. Much like Draymond, he had his very own “I’m back” moment. With a little over a minute left in the game, Curry drove into the lane from the top of the key against Steven Adams. He finished with a smooth reverse layup and ran across half court yelling, “We ain’t going home!” He exuberated with the confidence that was completely missing the first 4 games of this series. He only shot 9 for 20, but he dribbled to the rack with a purpose throughout the night, going 10 for 10 on free throws.

This game was the most complete game the Warriors have played this series. Everyone, from starters to bench players, contributed in some way to the game. Mo Speights scored 14 electric points off the bench, Igoudala had the nearly impossible task of guarding Durant for the majority of the night, and even Shaun Livingston provided an essential spark off the bench that helped the Warriors’ bench outscore the Thunder’s bench 30 to 13.

So after winning at home, how do the Warriors go to Oklahoma City and defeat the Thunder to force a Game 7?

The answer: Much of the same.

Not the same that we’ve seen this series, but what we’ve seen in their previous 73 wins. Only 9 teams have ever overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series. If there were any other team I would guess could do that, it would be the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry and Co. has broken nearly every regular season record they could find. Down 3-2 is just another obstacle in their way towards the NBA Finals, but it is their biggest obstacle yet.

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

To defeat the Thunder, the Warriors need to put as much pressure on the Thunder’s young stars as possible.

For Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka, this is their 4th Conference Final they have played in the past 6 years. They have the experience and confidence necessary to not fold under the pressure. This was most clearly represented in KD’s 40-point outing and Westbrook’s 31 points last night. On the other hand, OKC’s role players, like Andre Roberson and Dion Waiters, have never been in this position before. They both had monster games in the previous 4 matchups, but last night, the energy at Oracle Arena got into their heads. They combined to go 2 for 9, only scoring 6 points. All 6 came from Roberson, while Waiters, who played 27 minutes, scored 0 points. If the Warriors put pressure defensively on the Thunder’s role players, then the Warriors should be able to win away from home and force a Game 7.

They can also use a little bit of heroics from their Splash Brothers. Klay Thompson shot unconsciously in the third quarter of Game 4 scoring 19 straight while trying to bring the Warriors back in the game. Outside of that spurt, both players have been relatively quiet in the series. For the series, Curry is shooting 37.3% from beyond the 3-point line and Thompson is shooting a dismal 29.5% from distance. Thompson has been tending to shoot out of character shots from 3-point range. He takes 3s early in the shot clock with a man right in his face. Curry on the other hand is missing wide-open 3s. Up until last night, both of them took shots and missed shots that they’d normally make during the regular season. Although they looked more like themselves, they didn’t shoot nearly as efficiently as they did over the course of the regular season last night. Still the fact that 3s dropped for the two of them and the fact that Curry drove to the lane and finished with more ease is a breath of fresh air for Warriors’ fans everywhere.

Game 5 was the Warriors first win-or-go-home game since 2014. Their true colors shown through and those colors radiated with tenacity and grit. If their defense remains stout and Stephen Curry can round back out into his unanimous MVP form, the Warriors have a great chance of bringing this game back onto their home court Monday night. Stephen Curry told the crowd at Oracle that, “We Ain’t Going Home”, and I promise you, We Believe it.

About Cain Lever

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