The Oklahoma City Thunder continue to bounce back. After getting blown out in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, they returned the favor in Game 3, running the Golden State Warriors out of the gym in a 133-105 win to take a 2-1 series lead.
Kevin Durant had 33 points and Russell Westbrook had 30 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds to lead the Thunder, but they got huge help from the role players, too. Dion Waiters had 13 points and Andre Roberson made himself a key player on offense by attacking the rim rather than hanging out around the three-point line on his way to 13 points.
Stephen Curry had 24 points and Klay Thompson had 18 in the ugly loss.
Oklahoma City surprised everyone by going small in the first quarter against the Warriors -- and it worked. Their lead grew to as many as 13 thanks to a lineup that featured Roberson at power forward instead of Enes Kanter. The Warriors answered, however, and pulled closer, ending the quarter down 34-28. The reserves kept the Warriors in it, and they even tied the game at 40, but the Thunder had another run in them -- a big one.
With Westbrook pushing the ball, and Durant taking over, they ended the half on a 32-7 run as the Warriors went 2-of-23 from the field to end the quarter. The Thunder took a 72-47 lead into the half.
That run extended to 55-19 midway through the third quarter. The Thunder scored 45 in the quarter to take a 37-point lead through three, and all that was left in this one was watching the clock tick down to zero. The lead grew to as many as 41 and the Thunder went on to win by 28.
The Thunder will have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in Game 4 on Tuesday in Oklahoma City. Here are three things we learned from Game 3:
The Thunder can run, too
After having success by slowing the pace in Game 1, the Thunder surprised the Warriors early by running and gunning with a small ball lineup. They jumped out to a 13-point lead midway through the first quarter, but the Warriors had erased that lead by the beginning of the second quarter. Oklahoma City had another run in them, though, and that run blew the game open. They attacked a weak Warriors defense that failed to pick up Westbrook on multiple occasions in transition and had no answers for the half-court. Durant and Westbrook were a step ahead of the Warriors on every possession. The Warriors were chasing the ball and failing to stay in front of anyone.
Draymond Green and the Warriors are rattled
The first half was probably the worst half of the Warriors' season, and a lot of it had to do with the play of Green. He was out of sorts in all facets. He kicked Steven Adams in the groin, he couldn't buy a bucket on offense, and he made mental error after mental error on defense -- why was he jumping out on a Roberson three when the game plan was clearly to let him shoot, and why was he fouling Westbrook on a desperation three at the halftime buzzer? He finished the game 1-of-9 from the field and had six points and four turnovers. It wasn't just Green, though, as the Warriors were in shambles on all counts. They were out-hustled and out-classed, clearly unprepared for a game that turned the momentum over to the Thunder.
It clearly isn't over yet
Not to discredit the Thunder, but they still have a long way to go. The Warriors can take back home-court advantage with a win in Game 4, and with the way this series has gone, a win there is a very real possibility. The Thunder thoroughly outplayed the Warriors, but Golden State also kicked themselves many times. They missed a ton of open jumpers and rushed through offensively all night. Plus, as mentioned above, their defense was miserable. The Thunder are well aware that teams are capable of rebounding from a blowout loss -- they did so themselves in this very game after a 27-point Game 2 loss, and they also avenged their 32-point Game 1 trouncing at the hands of the Spurs in the second round of the playoffs.
The problem for the Warriors is this: If the Thunder play like they did in Game 3, whatever they do might not matter. The Thunder have shown again and again this postseason that they do not fold. And now they're a game away from taking complete control of the series -- they're just two games away from the NBA Finals.
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