Golden State is alive. The Warriors still trail 3-2 in the series, but a 120-111 win against the Thunder on Thursday will extend their incredible season, keeping afloat the idea that they still could come back and overcome Oklahoma City despite trailing by two games.
The Warriors had to start better than the previous two blowouts in Games 3 and 4, not only to avoid falling behind early, but to prove to themselves that they weren't the team that showed up in Oklahoma City. They did that, going up 22-12 late in the first quarter, a quick double-digit advantage, before ending the quarter with a 25-21 advantage.
Stephen Curry and Draymond Green both regained their composure after two full games questioning them, their health and their decision making. For Curry, it happened in the second quarter, when he dropped a quick seven points in less than a minute, including beating three defenders for a layup.
Oklahoma City refused to die, though, despite the Warriors throwing everything at them. Twice in the second half, they took leads, looking like they might still steal Game 5 and close out Golden State on the road before the Warriors answered back. Even in the closing minute, the Thunder were close: Westbrook hit a shot, was fouled, missed the layup, rebounded his miss, kicked it out to Kevin Durant for a wide-open three ... and he missed the shot, one that would have made it a three-point game. Still, this was a solid game for the Thunder overall, dropping a game in a very hostile environment where only two teams have won all year.
Game 6 will be played on Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern, where the Thunder will look to use home court advantage to end the 73-win Warriors way sooner than anyone expected.
1. Warriors' decisive 4th-quarter run came without their Big Three
The lineup that turned a single-digit game in the fourth quarter into a double-digit blowout (sort of) didn't involve Curry, Thompson or Green. Instead, it was Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Marreese Speights. Yes, that's a real lineup that a) played b) played meaningful minutes and c) extended the lead when it mattered.
We proooooobably shouldn't start calling it Golden State's new Death Lineup, of course, but for a game it worked. It's a reminder of how deep the Warriors have been this season, always seeming to get timely production from bench players when various injuries bothered them throughout the year. In the welcoming nature of the Oracle, the bench came back to life and kept Golden State alive.
2. Oklahoma City's headed home, and that's great
The Warriors won at home in a tightly contested game. There's no question they can still win this series. But this Thunder team isn't scared of Golden State. They've slaughtered them twice at home, and they're not expecting Game 6 to be any different. And honestly ... should we? Game 5 was a needed victory, but it wasn't exactly decisive. Referees favored the home team, as they often do. Bit players unlikely to repeat their performances -- hey Mo Speights -- came through with big games. Curry and Green looked very good, and that's the most important part, but the Warriors still couldn't put Oklahoma City away, with every attempt rebuffed by a Thunder pushback that threatened to steal the game despite all Golden State's momentum.
The Thunder should be favored in Game 6, and they probably should be favored by a lot. This has been their series, and this feels like their playoffs. The Warriors were the greatest regular season team of all time, but Oklahoma City has been better in these playoffs. There's no reason to think that will change.
3. The Warriors finally had decent big man play
Much was made of the Thunder's small ball lineups outplaying -- well, quite frankly, annihilating -- the Warriors' Death Lineup. But similarly, Golden State had a problem with their conventional lineups, too. None of their big men were effective enough to sustain against the Thunder's huge front line, with Andrew Bogut playing too little, Mo Speights scoring too infrequently, Festus Ezeli shooting too poorly from the line and Anderson Varejao ... well, there's no way to put it nicely, but he was by far the worst of the four.
Bogut arguably should have played more and sooner -- in Game 4, one of the Warriors' only good moments came to begin the third quarter with their starting five, Bogut included, where they defensively locked down and confused the Thunder for six minutes. In Game 5, he did play more, scoring 10 points and nabbing eight rebounds in the first half, with a solid second half as well. When you consider Draymond Green's incompetence when the series shifted to Oklahoma City, the Warriors' front court had been completely and utterly outplayed this series. On Thursday, with Green looking more like himself, a good run from Bogut and even some productive minutes from Speights and Ezeli, Golden State finally won the front court against Oklahoma City's deep, deep bench of bigs and consequently won a game.
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Can OKC end Golden State's historic run?
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