For the first time in weeks, the Golden State Warriors opened the game looking like a 73-win juggernaut.
Andrew Bogut, welcome back to the NBA. This game was all about the big Aussie, and he (finally) delivered. After looking gimpy, tired and slow for a solid four games, Bogut was back to his dominant self. Although casual fans around the world know the Warriors for their big three, the fact remains that their two All-NBA caliber defensive role players (Bogut and Andre Iguodala) are just as valuable to maintaining an elite defense.
OKC opened 5-of-22 with no free throw attempts, which will jump-start anyone's defensive confidence. But despite some genuine improvement from the Warriors, a good part of this was just the fact that the Thunder wouldn't hit low-probability shots every road game of the series.
But despite the warm first quarter fuzzies, the Warriors only managed a 25-21 advantage. Not exactly an inspiring result, given the way the team had been blasted in the second half of games this series.
Oklahoma City made the home team a jump-shootin' team, and as we all know, those rarely win championships. With their beefy front line, the Thunder were able to prevent quality looks at the rim, while disciplined perimeter play kept Curry and Thompson from getting on a roll.
Stephen Curry went to the bench very early in the first quarter (with about four minutes remaining). He didn't make his return until the nine minute mark of the second quarter, an extremely long rest for an MVP on the wrong side of an elimination game.
Midway through the second quarter, it was two big men who got it done for Golden State. Andrew Bogut had several key plays, including a huge rejection at the rim, to tally 10 points and eight rebounds at the half (has he ever done that in a blue-and-gold uniform?). And Marreese Speights was busy doing Marreese Speights things. See the replay below:
Mo Speights Mo Problems. pic.twitter.com/J9JDFV7Ada— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) May 27, 2016
Meanwhile, despite talk of Stephen Curry being limited by injury, he still strung together a 57-second, 7-0 personal run. He added 11 points and five assists at the half. Klay Thompson continued his career-best playoff run, with a game-high 16 points and four rebounds at the break. Warriors were up 58-50, and they were clearly the better team to that point.
Although the first half was a nip-and-tuck affair, the Thunder were not playing a game they had a right to win. At one point they trailed 49-45, yet were tied on the glass (24-24), and they were outscored 24-10 in the paint. Jump shooting teams, right? When the team up in paint points (Dubs) is the smaller, better shooting team, this was one of those inevitable "regress-to-the-mean" games -- thank the basketball gods on high it came during game five.
Just as financial advisors preach past results are no guarantee of future returns, a dominant first half would seemingly have no bearing on tonight's second half. Things changed in a big way at the half, as the Thunder roared back within one point. They were aided by a four-point play from Kevin Durant, as he was fouled shooting a three, and Draymond Green was assessed a technical foul for exclaiming.
I get that Draymond Green is on the NBA watch list right now, just like Rasheed Wallace once was. But just because they're calling techs on reputation doesn't mean they should, and it doesn't make every reputation tech justifiable. This is playoff basketball of the highest caliber. Even Thunder fans will agree that cursing at oneself (if that is what he was doing -- certainly no guarantee) is not a technical violation. Unless Green threatened to fricassee referee Ken Mauer's dog, it seemed unnecessary in real time from my pro-Warriors view.
Draymond Green picks up his fifth T of the playoffs. Two more and he's suspended. Ken Mauer called it despite Green yelling at another ref.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 27, 2016
The Wariors continued to wreck the Thunder in the paint, and yet it didn't matter. They were up 38-16 in paint points late in the third. The overall score: 74-72. This game just did not make sense, and anyone who tells you it did probably won a lot of money on Leicester City, only they won't tell you how much or when they made the bet. "Before the season" my freaking butt.
The Thunder would eventually reclaim the lead, 68-67, with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. But the Warriors finally recovered from an Oklahoman hay-maker, answering back 16-9 to finish the third. The Dubs would sprint out to begin the fourth, with stars and role players alike playing quality ball.
On the offensive side, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala both ripped threes. The entire team moved the ball patiently, and mostly found quality looks each possession. Defensively, the Warriors forced more turnovers, won the rebounding battle, and despite losing the long-range advantage, largely beat the Thunder at their own game. A number of late OKC turnovers proved too much for the road team to overcome, as the Warriors hold on to the 120-111 victory.
Proof that twitter is full of reasonable people!
Draymond Green might be the dirtiest player I've ever seen step on a basketball court— Us'amah Uqba (@ara_mare) May 27, 2016
Millennials, am I right?
Draymond Green look like the dude in school always bumming leftover food at lunch— lil boat (@cgreen2Cold) May 27, 2016
Draymond Green's antics have eroded any interest I might have had in this @warriors team. Worst clown in the NBA since Dennis Rodman.— Ryan Goulding (@Prof_Goulding) May 27, 2016
Hall of fame five-time champion and greatest-rebounder-alive Dennis Rodman*
I will personally jump in this game and take out Draymond Green— Q (@osuseq) May 27, 2016
Of all people to play this twitter-tough-guy stuff with. Not even the other players do it!
Would rather be forced to kick it for a day with Jeffrey Dahmer than Draymond Green.— Jesse J. Carr (@Carr_Jesse) May 27, 2016
Just so you know, this was one of the less offensive/insulting ones.
Summarize this game in four words
Chickens come home, roost.
Plus four more words
(At least for tonight.)
Four more words, please?
Shut up, Chris Webber.
Ci vediamo sabato!