That game. The best regular season game I've seen in a while (though the Spurs game was more emotionally satisfying). It was jam packed with so many incredible, improbable moments from both sides, so let's get to it.
I weighed my need to emotionally process by writing a bunch about this incredible game against your need as a reader to read something concise, and you lost. If you want a quick read, just watch the few videos and read the bits of text directly under them, skipping my commentary on every play in overtime.
The Epic End of Regulation
The absolutely most unbelievable shots were, of course, Andre Iguodala's 2 FTs at the end of regulation to tie it. Those FTs were made possible by this sequence of plays which are basically the last 14 seconds of regulation, which I'm going to just run all the way through.
The inbounds play isn't much to write home about: Barnes screens for Draymond, who screens for Klay. We do get a nice layup from Klay Thompson, though you expect OKC to concede a layup in this situation. The main action happened when the Warriors trap Kevin Durant. The background here is that about halfway through the fourth quarter, the Warriors started blitzing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with double teams. RWB handled the blitz all right, but Durant definitely had trouble finding the open man. This isn't just a matter of his vision and composure, it's a matter of his teammates making themselves open. So, the W's just kept going with it, and in that context, I was positive that they would trap and not foul Durant. Make someone else hit the FT or get a steal.
Harrison Barnes alertly doubles Durant along with Andre. Durant is in trouble. He has absolutely no outlets, and it was a tactical error to inbound the ball to him in the corner, where it's easier to trap. He throws a Hail Mary, which IS a mistake he'll want back, since OKC still had a timeout.
The Steal and Save
Klay makes a nice deflection, and Draymond Green... can you believe his effort? I mean, maybe he's burned out and maybe he freaked out at halftime and screamed that he isn't a robot, but still, he almost falls down (ball game if he falls), half crawls across the court, gets the ball with one foot barely inbounds, then while flying out of bounds, turns and in mid-air adjusts his pass to go JUST out of reach of an OKC defender. Draymond has a knack for this kind of pure hustle/heady play. (We actually discussed another such play in a previous Explain, but I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember which one, but Draymond saved another ball going out...) Anyway, that Draymond recovery was a HUGE play.
The Shot and Free Throws
Klay brings it up. There is chaos, but OKC knows one thing: Curry must not get the ball. THEY DOUBLE TEAM CURRY AT HALF COURT. This seems pretty normal by now, but talk about warping defenses with your gravity. Anyway, this double team allows Andre to get open for the shot, and Durant fouls Andre.
Andre is about a 70% FT shooter in his career. The mathematical odds of hitting both FTs are 0.7 x 0.7 which is less than 50%. Since Curry is shooting above 50% from extra long distance, Andre's clutch free throws were literally the most improbable shots to fall this game. I really had no belief he would hit both, and merely hoped that the W's could tip in the second FT miss, like one of Stephen Curry's run down the lane for a tip dunk type plays. I hope this signals a return to better FT shooting for Andre.
I would also say this was the clutchest regular season moment for Andre in his Warriors career. I know he's hit at least three game winning/tying shots, but those were catch and react. Here, he got to face down his personal demon with the whole world and more importantly, his team, watching for excruciating seconds upon seconds, and, for one night, he smacked down the demon.
I included video for the few plays I wanted to focus on, but you can see video of many of the other plays in the highlight video at the end of the article. Open in a new window to watch and read.
The end of the fourth quarter had the Warriors settling in on a blend of defensive approaches. For Durant, double team him and make him find the open man under pressure. This is the blitz defense that was the standard book on Curry last year. For Westbrook, give him the LeBron James treatment. Let Klay Thompson guard him but have different Warriors ready to step over as goalie to stop Westbrook's drives. Also, give Andre Roberson the Tony Allen treatment, and have Curry guard him, so Curry can play free safety and help double team. The story of the overtime was OKC adjusting (or not) to this defense.
- 5:00. Westbrook gets a double screen up high which confuses Draymond and Andre as to who should drop back as goalie. RWB gets an and-1 layup. OKC 106-103.
- 4:45. Warriors run Warriors Rip (see Explain One Play: Curry Screen = Barnes Dunk AGAIN for full explanation), which is covered well, and then ISO Draymond on Dion Waiters. Draymond misses a layup.
- 4:33. RWB passes to Durant in early offense as Draymond tries to recover from the layup miss. Durant attacks IMMEDIATELY before the double team can get there. Barnes rotates, and Durant finds Serge Ibaka for the layup. OKC 108-103.
The Warriors desperately need a good possession, and certainly not a miss that OKC can run on. So they go to old reliable, the Curry-Green high pick and roll (see Explain One Play: Curry & Green's Favorite Play). Durant has actually blocked and changed a couple of Curry's shots, so the Thunder feel very comfortable switching him immediately to cover Curry. THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA. Kevin Durant has five fouls. You can hear Curry yelling, THANK YOU BASED GOD as he gives Durant a few fancy dribbles, and once Durant turns his body facing left, it is all over. Curry does his patented behind the back dribble crossover to go back right, he runs past Durant, gets Durant on his back and CURRY SLOWS DOWN. There is your low-key play of the game. Durant can't resist chasing down Curry and he runs right into Curry, knocking him over and fouling himself out of the game. Now, there is no guarantee that the refs will call this. But, I really think if you are OKC, you need to fight hard not to switch that play. Because, RWB can be defended by the Warriors, particularly with Klay at the front, but Durant is the one matchup the Warriors have no easy answer for.
- 4:13. Okay, Curry showing he's not a robot, actually misses a free throw. OKC 108-104, Westbrook is picked up by Draymond on a pick and roll switch. He drives, and Klay comes over as goalie. Green knocks the ball loose, turnover.
- 4:00. Warriors fast break. Ibaka falls down, so there is chaos in the matches, and Westbrook loses Curry. Klay feeds Curry for a human-sized three from the top of the key. OKC 108-107.
- 3:40. OKC tries the two-high screens thing to keep the goalie away. RWB drives on Draymond in isolation, and was bumped or something that caused the ball to fly out wildly. Curry launches the touchdown pass, but Andre misses the open layup. It's okay Andre, you have a pass for the next twenty plays for your ultra-clutch free throws to save the game.
- 3:25. After a timeout, OKC runs a staggered baseline screen for RWB which GSW blows up by switching. This is the same play they run in crunch time at the end of OT. Klay and Curry double team him, the play degenerates into a Dion ISO stepback long 2 over Andre, which is a low percentage play.
- 3:00. Warriors run a HORNS play which gets Draymond an open layup which he misses. Many open layups missed today.
- 2:50. RWB runs an excellent pick and roll with Ibaka for a layup. OKC 110-107.
- 2:35. Curry-Green high pick and roll. Just another Curry between the legs, behind the back quick-trigger three in someone's face. Tie game.
- 2:20. RWB pick and roll with Roberson, trying to get Curry to switch to RWB. Instead, Curry and Klay double RWB, he passes to Roberson who misses the layup but hustles to put it back. OKC 112-110.
- 2:00. Curry fires up a long miss. RWB gets Curry on a switch on the high pick and roll, Draymond comes over to play goalie. Pass to Ibaka who gets a hometown bounce to hit the shot. OKC 114-110.
- 1:41. Curry-Green high pick and roll. Curry gets Singler ISO, rattles elbow jumper in and out. Draymond comes up with a huge offensive rebound. He makes a tremendous find of Klay for a catch and shoot 3. Great rebound, pass, great shot under pressure. OKC 114-113.
- 1:27. RWB high pick and roll with -- wait for it -- Roberson trying to get Curry on a switch. Klay fights through the screen and Draymond comes over as goalie. Andre switches to Ibaka, leaving Dion Waiters open in the far corner. RWB doesn't care and he forces up a runner. Ibaka hustles to get the offensive board, out of bounds, OKC ball.
- 1:05. I wonder what play OKC will run. High pick and roll, RWB trying to get Curry. They run it at the logo so Curry and Klay threaten to trap, then Klay stays on RWB. RWB puts up a wild shot, is bailed out by a foul on Klay. Klay Thompson is doing a great job on RWB tonight. James Harden is a little too wily for Klay, LeBron James is too strong, but RWB is just right. Two free throws, OKC 116-113.
- 1:00. Barnes sets a pick for Curry, in order to get Kyle Singler on a switch, AGAIN. Curry runs by him and gets bonked on the head by Singler. 2 FTs. OKC 116-115.
- 0:41. And now for something completely the same. RWB high pick and roll with Curry's man. Klay and Curry trap RWB, he knocks Curry away with a forearm, causing 1 hit point of damage, sneaks by the blitz only to find the goalie, Draymond, waiting there. Waiters raises a lonely hand to say, "Yes I too am a human, and a legal player who is very open for a far corner three." Instead, RWB hits the cutting Roberson, who rolls in a very clunky looking layup.
But see how well that play would have worked if Klay had been running towards the basket just as Draymond turned around? He had a completely clear lane. Instead, Curry had to fire in two ludicrous threes to send the game to OT. (The memories await you at Two Wild Threes from a Wild Game Three.)
Okay, tonight, they ran this play again. You'll see the inbounds to Draymond, the fake handoff to Curry. But the timing is a lot better. As Draymond turns around, Barnes will already be screening. Also, Klay will cut backdoor to the hoop this time.
Just a beautiful play. Also, Kyle Singler does end up getting picked on, as he's Barnes's defender and he needs to switch onto Klay cutting backdoor. Instead, he just gets kind of lost, stuck between staying with Barnes and switching to Draymond. By the way, Oscar Robertson, this is what is known as "a play" in the Warriors playbook. They do have at least one. Also, full credit to Klay for finishing through contact a double clutch reverse layup. Hard shot at a big moment. Klay ties it 118-118.
We've come this far, so let's look at the rest of the overtime. We'll skip the part about Draymond almost getting a T for complaining about Ibaka throwing him to the ground.
There's 29.5 seconds left. OKC takes a time out and gets to plan a play. I'll put the film at the end, since what follows after this play is highly distracting.
They end up running the exact same play they ran at 3:25. I'm not really sure why they ran this play, since it got blown up last time, and also the whole "RWB getting Curry on a switch and having him dish to a teammate who clunks in a layup" plan was working. Anyway, you'll see RWB get two screens along the baseline. This time Curry jumps out of the way, so Klay can stay with RWB.
So, everyone on OKC clears out to the right side. This is I guess what passes for a second option in the OKC playbook, but come on. The GSW defense has been to let Klay guard RWB up front and to have a goalie come meet him at the rim. In this case, having all the OKC "shooters" clumped on the right makes it easy for a Draymond to come as a goalie and for the others to zone to prevent the outlet. You can see Draymond just antsy like a sprinter waiting for the starter's gun, waiting to come out. Klay stays with RWB, doesn't foul, so RWB resets to a different ISO look, with the other four last along the baseline.
I guess this is what passes for a third option in an OKC play. Doesn't matter. Klay stays with him, itchy Draymond comes over as goalie (with bonus Barnes help), and RWB puts up a very tough bank shot. Draymond does a very good job tipping out the rebound.
Then the Warriors don't call time out so Steph can Steph. Here is the tape.
Just yesterday I was pointing out how Curry gave up going for the 12 three-pointers in a game record in semi-garbage time. (See Explain One Play: Stephen Curry (Not) Going For 50 Points.) Funny how basketkarma works... tonight Curry fired in 12 threes to tie the record and the Dubs needed every last one of them to pull out the great win.
The big strategic question to come out of this is whether OKC can handle the Warriors blitz of Durant (and Westbrook to a lesser extent). Durant and RWB love the ISO, so can they make plays when blitzed? Curry and the Warriors took all of last year to figure out the answers, so OKC hopefully will not have the time or discipline to work out the right counters.
On the Warriors side, OKC did gunk up the Warriors offense by switching everything (giving the Warriors a taste of their own medicine). The W's have to work on countering that defense.
By the way, remember how Curry did this all on a sprained ankle? I forgot too.