The Golden State Warriors are going back to the NBA Finals. Stephen Curry caught fire, and the Warriors dominated the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder to take Game 7, 96-88. The win completed the improbable comeback from a 3-1 series deficit as the Warriors advance to the NBA Finals for the second straight year, where they'll face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers again.
Curry was spectacular as he always is, leading the way with 36 points and eight assists. Klay Thompson added 21 points as the Splash Brothers took over once again to lead the Warriors to yet another win.
Kevin Durant had 27 points in the loss. Russell Westbrook struggled to shoot from the floor, but scored 19 points with 13 assists and seven rebounds. It will be an interesting offseason for the Thunder to say the least, with Durant heading into free agency.
The Warriors, meanwhile, are heading back to the NBA Finals for the second consecutive year with a chance to cement their status as one of the NBA's all-time great teams after winning an NBA-record 73 games in the regular season.
The first quarter was a ball of nervous, hectic energy. The Warriors started Andre Iguodala for the first time this postseason, but the Thunder had a great start. They survived some hot shooting from Curry -- he had eight first-quarter points and was 2-for-3 from deep -- and took a 24-19 lead heading into the second as Durant went 3-of-3 from the field. With Curry on the bench to start the second quarter, the Thunder overpowered the Warriors, going on an 11-3 run to start the quarter to build a 13-point lead.
The second quarter was filled with runs, though. After starting 0-for-7, Thompson made three straight threes to bring the Warriors back into the game. But as the Thunder have done so many times this season, they answered with a run of their own to build the lead back up to 12. The Warriors responded once more, ending the half down six after a wild Westbrook-Curry sequence.
The Thunder continued to out-rebound the Warriors early in the third, but the Warriors were hitting from deep. They cut away at the Thunder lead, and then took it with Curry hitting a trio three-pointers in three minutes to give the Warriors their first lead of the second half. The Thunder looked lost offensively, turning over the ball and looking dejected on the offensive end. Durant made some tough shots in an attempt to keep the Thunder in it, but they looked spooked. They scored only 12 points in the quarter, and trailed 71-60 heading into the fourth.
With Curry on the bench to start the fourth, the Thunder rallied to pull within four with 8:30 to play. Then Curry returned and struck again. He scored seven straight Warriors points, but Durant and the Thunder answered, and were only down five with 5:26 to play.
Then the Warriors turned into the Warriors again, one last time against the Thunder. Thompson hit a three, Draymond Green hit a three, and the Warriors' lead was up to 11 with 4:43 to play. The lead was still 11 with 3:10 to play, but Durant wouldn't let up -- he went on a 7-0 run himself to pull the Thunder within four.
It ended up being for nothing, however, as Curry drew a foul on a three-point shot and made three free throws to put the game away.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is on Thursday in Oakland. Here are three things we learned from the Warriors' Game 7 win:
The MVP is here
There's no doubt that Thompson saved the Warriors in Game 6, but Curry was the hero in Game 7. He went off in the third, doing that thing that he always does with ridiculous shots that shouldn't go in, but always do.
Curry hasn't looked like his normal self throughout the playoffs, but he came into form in Games 5, 6 and 7. Westbrook outplayed him through the first four games of the series, but Curry was the better player in the final three games, when the Warriors needed him most. On top of the offensive performance, his defense against Westbrook was once again solid. Thompson's playoff performance has been a life-saver for the Warriors, but Curry has to lead them to the promised land.
Westbrook couldn't be the sidekick the Thunder needed
The Thunder looked poised. They came out in the first quarter and punched the Warriors in the mouth. They kept pouring it on in the second. Then it all fell apart in the third. They were lost offensively, and it showed in their emotions. Westbrook, in particular, struggled. He ended the night 7-of-21 from the field and 2-of-6 from deep. Durant, meanwhile, only took 19 shots, making 10 of them. The Thunder needed a big night from both of their superstars, but Westbrook came up empty in one of the biggest games of his career just a few nights after he laughed off a comment about Curry's defense.
And now, the Thunder face an offseason full of questions. Namely: Will Durant return? It's tough to call this a complete meltdown -- they lost to the best regular season team in history -- but it probably isn't the way Durant imagined this season ending. Will it be how his OKC career ends?
The Finals are about to be lit
What else can you ask for? We'll have a repeat of last year's Finals, and the Cavaliers are completely healthy this time. The Warriors dominated the regular season against the Cavs, but that was before Cleveland found its groove in the playoffs. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving will get their shot at a title, and LeBron James gets another chance to bring one home to Cleveland. It will be a lot different than last year's matchup, and with the Cavaliers turning into a three-point happy team it could be a high-scoring affair.
This was the matchup that seemed destined to happen all season, and now we have it. Thursday can't come soon enough.
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