The writing seemed to be on the wall before this game started. The Oklahoma City Thunder were not only fighting for playoff positioning, but to stay in the playoffs. The Golden State Warriors were locked into the second seed.
The Warriors were also without Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Patrick McCaw, Omri Casspi, and Kevon Looney. And they’ve been struggling to find any rhythm as they deal with the score of injuries.
So yeah, the writing was on the wall. The Dubs weren’t supposed to win this one. And when the Thunder jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game, it felt inevitable.
So much for that.
After that slump, things absolutely clicked. Klay Thompson was aggressive looking for his shot and his teammates, and Kevin Durant was quietly emphatic, with a 15-point first quarter. The team moved the ball crisply, and rotated swiftly and with purpose on defense.
Draymond to his protege Jordan Bell for the slam pic.twitter.com/x3grKpvYOl— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) April 4, 2018
With so many wings injured, Steve Kerr was forced to go with some larger lineups, and they worked well. The Dubs took the lead in the second quarter with a two-big lineup, and Damian Jones received some big minutes and delivered for Golden State.
While the Warriors built a nice 10-point lead at the half, the Thunder, to no one’s surprise, rallied back in the second half behind a strong, aggressive performance by reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. The third quarter was full of exciting play from both teams, as the game started to get close again.
The fourth quarter began to take on a playoff atmosphere, with a close game and excited Thunder fans knowing how important this outcome was for the playoff seeding. Yet as the fourth quarter wound towards a close, with important and exciting possession after important and exciting possession, Kerr decided to . . . keep Jones in the game.
The trust in his young player was surely a long-term move, since the outcome of the game didn’t much matter for Golden State. And yet, it worked darn well in the short term as well, as Jones was giving the Warriors a previously-lacking interior presence on both ends of the court.
️WE ARE HERE FOR THIS DAMIAN JONES pic.twitter.com/SVPL3AfPhD— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) April 4, 2018
But this one truly came down to the end. With the Warriors up four, with the ball, with less than 30 seconds left, Durant (who finished with 34 points and 10 rebounds) threw the ball away, leading to a Thunder score. Quinn Cook (12 points, 6 assists) was then fouled with 18 seconds left, and the youngster on a two-way contract calmly stepped to the line on national TV and knocked down both free throws.
After another quick Thunder bucket, the Warriors ended up with a less reliable free throw shooter at the line: Draymond Green. But he calmly made them both as well, and that was the game.
Warriors 111, Thunder 107. Oh, yeah.