The defending champion Golden State Warriors lived to fight another day with an impressive bounce-back victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Oracle Arena on Thursday night.
Game 5 began with the Warriors whipping the ball around with five passes on the first possession and ended with a Harrison Barnes three from the corner. The entire building was electric from the start, with the crowd appearing to sense the urgency with which Golden State needed to maintain throughout the hard-fought contest.
Draymond Green’s block of a Russell Westbrook drive ignited a fastbreak that led to a long two from Steph Curry. Not long after, Klay Thompson utilized his size on a turnaround just above the free throw line over Dion Waiters to give the Warriors a 13-7 lead. Westbrook then introduced himself to the game with a deep three-pointer in response.
Even though Westbrook and Durant started the game just 3-16 from the field combined, OKC was able to stay within range of Warriors team collectively playing inspired basketball with consistency for the first time in several games. In one sequence, even though they didn’t ultimately score, the Thunder managed to get four attempts at the basket due to a frenzied effort from Westbrook, Enes Kanter and Waiters.
Durant’s coast-to-coast drive with just under 30 seconds in the quarter pulled the Thunder to within four as Golden State took that same lead (25-21) into the break.
Marreese Speights’ energy gave the Warriors another jolt to start the second quarter. His three-point play gave Golden State a 33-29 lead at the 9:45 mark, but Durant found an open Anthony Morrow behind the arc to bring the Thunder within a point and caused a Steve Kerr timeout.
Steven Adams was limited in the first quarter due to foul trouble, but returned to provide some physicality on both sides of the quart in the second. One Adams stretch included an offensive rebound and dunk, followed by a defensive rebound and eventual finish at the rim at the other end.
Curry’s seven-point run, which included a deep three and an impressive driving layup over several OKC big men, gave the Warriors a 47-39 lead. Regardless of whether Curry is technically “100 percent healthy” at this stage, it was the first burst of this type since Game 2 and something Golden State sorely missed.
Durant’s jumper and Westbrook’s step-back in the lane pulled the Thunder to within four points at the 4:30 mark. An Andre Iguodala find of Green in the lane in transition gave the Warriors a 53-45 lead just 90 seconds later. Thompson’s three from the corner gave the Warriors a 56-48 lead. The two teams then exchanged buckets to head into halftime with Golden State leading 58-50.
The second half started with a Serge Ibaka three-pointer and an exchange that resulted in Durant earning three shots from the free throw line and Green’s fifth technical foul of the postseason. Four points later, Durant ran his total up to 19 for the game and pulled the Thunder to within three.
Curry’s three from the corner put the Warriors up 63-59. OKC then got some good big-to-big action coming out of a timeout with Ibaka driving to find Adams open in the key for a bucket. Durant then tied the game at 65 the next time down the court. Westbrook’s third three-pointer of the game gave OKC a 68-67 lead a couple possessions later.
After a Westbrook turnover, Andrew Bogut found Green for a long outlet and finish plus the foul on Ibaka, bringing sudden energy to the crowd yet again. Green’s rebound of a missed transition three by Thompson and finish that followed gave the Warriors a 74-70 lead heading into a timeout. Curry’s third three-pointer of the game made it a seven-point game.
Durant finished the quarter with a contested three over Andre Iguodala and driving dunk off an Anthony Roberson steal along the perimeter. The Warriors saw their halftime lead cut in half, taking an 81-77 lead into the fourth.
Golden State opened the fourth with a 5-0 run causing head coach Billy Donovan to call for timeout just 58 seconds into the quarter. They kept the run going and actually pushed the lead out to 12 before Durant was able to hit a jumper in the lane. Westbrook struggled with turnovers (seven on the night), but his drive and finish at the rim pulled OKC back to within 10 at the nine-minute mark.
Speights really provided a boost off the bench for the Warriors, with 14 points in nine minutes of action. Andrew Bogut also had his most effective game of the series, with 15 points and 14 rebounds (both were postseason-highs). Ibaka connected on three deep balls of his own, with the last pulling the Thunder back to within 10 with five minutes left in the game. Durant’s two free throws and three-pointer in transition following a turnover by the Warriors pulled them to within just five points, but Curry responded with a driving layup and free throw to push Golden State’s lead back to 106-98 with four minutes left.
Roberson’s sixth foul came on an ill-advised foul of Curry along the perimeter, as the back-to-back MVP knocked down two free throws to extend the Warriors’ lead back to 109-101, and then followed that up by picking Durant’s pocket and driving the length of the court for another bucket. After a Donovan technical foul, Curry ran his total to 31 points to go along with his seven points, six assists and five steals on the night.
In the end, the Warriors did just enough to hold on for the 120-111 win to send the series back to Oklahoma City for Game 6 on Saturday night. Durant ended up with 40 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Westbrook overcame a rough shooting start to finish with 31 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals (but the duo also combined for 10 turnovers on the night). They also combined to shoot just 23-59 (38.9 percent) from the field.
Game 6 Prediction: Although the Warriors are almost guaranteed to bring the same type of effort that ultimately led to their Game 5 victory, OKC comes up with a lineup and scheme to offset the zone while getting a cleaner game from the usual suspects and more production from Waiters and Kanter. The Thunder close it out and earn their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2012.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.