The Warriors are not dead yet. After falling in a 1-3 hole in the first four games of the series, they have won two straight, including Saturday's 108-101 thriller in Oklahoma City. Now the series is tied and there will be a decisive Game 7 played on Monday at the Oracle Arena. If Golden State prevails, it will be only the 10th time a team has come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series.
The Warriors never looked comfortable in the first quarter. The Thunder, bolstered by their home crowd, played with more energy. Klay Thompson could get in a rhythm early, as Andre Roberson and Dion Waiters played great defense on him and there was always a big man around to challenge his shot inside. Stephen Curry missed his first three shots and the bench couldn't do much damage when they checked in. Despite all those issues, they only trailed by three points after 12 minutes.
The Thunder continued to control the game but couldn't break the game open. Kevin Durant, who had struggled in the first period, came alive and scored 12 in the second quarter. Serge Ibaka was aggressive on offense and Enes Kanter had a good stint off the bench. At one point, the lead was 13 points and momentum seemed to be going the Thunder's way, as they were the ones making the big plays.
Yet, at the end of the half, the lead had been cut down to just four points. Three-pointers kept the Warriors in it, as they went 9-of-21 from beyond the arc in the first two quarter, while Oklahoma City connected on just two of their 14 attempts. Klay Thompson broke free and made most of the damage, going 3-of-5 from behind the three-point line while Stephen Curry, who went scoreless in the first quarter, hit 2-of-3.
Golden State was bound to start playing better. Early in the third quarter Thompson hit back to back three-pointers and it seemed a huge run was coming. Instead of panicking, however, the Thunder continued to play hard and ride Westbrook and Durant on offense, like they had all series long. Later on, Curry would be the one catching fire, going off for 14 points in the frame, but they weathered that storm, too. Their mettle was rewarded when, after some untimely Warrior turnovers, they actually managed to extend their lead to eight points going into the final period.
It seemed like the Thunder's steadiness was going to give them the win. No matter what the Warriors did, they always had an answer. Yet, to beat Golden State, it's imperative to put them away for good, and Oklahoma City failed to do that. Some Curry and Thompson heroics on offense and terrific Iguodala and Green plays on defense allowed Golden State to get ahead. The Thunder had their chances to retake control of the game but couldn't. A Curry floater with 14 seconds to go put the Warriors up five and acted as the dagger.
As unlikely as it seemed just a few days ago, there will be a Game 7. The defending champions are not dead.
3 thing we learned from the Warriors' close win
The Warriors can always count on the three-pointer
Golden State looked jittery to start the game. They struggled with the Thunder's length throughout the series and Saturday's matchup was no exception. At times it looked like they were going to be ran out of the building by a sharper, more aggressive Thunder. Yet, their ability to shoot from outside kept them in it in the bad times and helped them take the game.
They shot 21-of-44 from beyond the arc, with Curry, Thompson and Green combining for 17 of the makes. One of the criticism the Warriors faced often before winning the championship was that they were a jump-shooting team that had no other weapons. They proved that to be false, but their identity is undoubtedly built around the three-pointer.
That's not a weaknesses, obviously, but one of their biggest strengths, as they showed in Game 6.
Stephen Curry loves big moments
Curry had a historically great regular season and had plenty of memorable moments in this postseason, like his 17 overtime points against the Trail Blazers. Nothing can compete with how great he was in Game 6, however. When his team needed him the most and after a slow start, he simply took over in the second half.
The Thunder defense did all it could but had no chance of stopping Curry in the third quarter. He hit long shots using his lightning-quick release and drove to the rim when they played him too close. Then, in the fourth quarter, he hit huge shots to allow the Warriors to close the gap and ultimately take the lead. The dagger floater was just the finishing touch on a virtuoso performance by the MVP, one that he will have to repeat in Game 7 for his team to reach the finals for the second year in a row.
Klay Thompson saved the Warriors season
Curry started out slow. Green did a little bit of everything but wasn't dominant and struggled with foul trouble. The biggest reason why the Warriors were in it during the tough stretches and were in a position to make their move was Klay Thompson, who went off for 41 points and broke the record for three-pointers in a playoff game with 11.
Thompson has been the forgotten star for the Warriors all season long. It was understandable to overlook him, as Curry became the best player alive and Green became a bona fide superstar. They have the ball in their hands while Thompson moves without it, opening space that wouldn't be there as he cuts but rarely getting the credit he deserves. He was one of the best players in the league but at times it was hard to notice it.
In Game 6, however, it was impossible to miss his greatness. Thompson was a monster and without him, there wouldn't be a Game 7.