Monday, May 30, 2016

High-powered Warriors know how to battle, too

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Klay Thompson scores 41 points with a playoff-record 11 3s to rally the Warriors.
— It's hard to take your eyes off Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson when they're doing their tricks with the basketball way up on the high wire.
Curry paints the canvas with equal parts imagination and sheer fearlessness. Thompson just fires like a machine-gunner with a hair trigger.
Spectacular to watch, it can take your breath and vocabulary away.
Thompson set an NBA playoff record with 11 3-pointers, firing in five of them in the fourth quarter. Curry tossed in a half dozen that included the one that finally dropped the hammer.
Game 5 was a battle. This was a war.
– Golden State's Draymond Green
Yet in order for the pair of All-Star guards to flap their wings and soar like eagles, it was the ability of the Warriors to wrestle in the dirt that set up the incredible come-from-behind 108-101 win that now forces a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals on Monday night.
"We battled," said Draymond Green.
"We fought for every opportunity," said Andre Iguodala.
"We stuck with it," said Andrew Bogut.
This was another game that could have gone like that last two times the Warriors stepped out onto the court in OKC, where a leak in their defense and ball handling became a raging flood and the defending champs were swept away by 28 and 24 points.
Nightly Notable: Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson sets a new playoff high with eleven 3 pointers and drops 41 points as the Warriors win to force game 7.
But instead of sinking on Saturday night, the Warriors found a way to paddle their arms and kick their legs and kept popping their heads back up above the water.
They were frustrated time again and by the Thunder getting second shot opportunities that produced putback baskets. And yet they went right back to work on the backboards and down in the paint and out on the perimeter, swinging their axes with the resolve of coal miners.
"Game 5 was a battle," Green said. "This was a war."
The TV highlights that will run in an endless loop between now and Game 7 will show the Splash Brothers doing the act. It is the part of the show for which everybody buys their ticket. But it is often only possible if the Warriors are playing the kind of high-level, high-intensity defense that carried them to the title a year ago and built a large portion of that historic 73-9 record during the 2015-16 regular season.
The idea is to keep doing enough of the dirty work with the shovels in order to give Curry and Thompson a chance to come out and play. They never gave the longer, more athletic Thunder a chance to run away and hide.
"Yeah, just stay with it, stay with it," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. "We know how explosive our guards are in particular and we've got other guys that can knock down 3s. The main thing was getting stops and getting rebounds."
Warriors on Game 6 Victory
The Golden State Warriors speak with the media following their Game 6 victory.
While the 3-point circus was going on and Thompson was doing everything but spin a beach ball off the end of his nose, the Golden State defense stepped on the necks of the Thunder and wouldn't let a foot up all night long.
Kevin Durant made just 10 of his 31 shots to score 29 points. Russell Westbrook had a near triple-double with 28 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, but he made just 10 of 27 shots. In the fourth quarter, Durant and Westbrook were just 3 for 14 from the field, yet took all but five of the Thunder shots. That's when they also committed a combined six turnovers as they turned over the chance to advance to OKC's first NBA Finals since 2012.
"We didn't really change a lot," Bogut said. "We just were sticking with it and staying in there to do the necessary work that gives these guys that can shoot like they can a chance to win it."
The Thunder blew an 83-75 lead going into the fourth quarter and a 94-87 lead with just under six minutes left in the game because the Warriors' unyielding effort and tireless energy ultimately wore them down.
Westbrook on several occasions appeared so gassed that he practically dribbled himself right down into the court. Durant stopped moving the ball and attacking the basket to make plays or draw fouls and settled for quick jumpers. Thunder turned the ball over five times in the last two minutes of the game and the only shot they got off during that stretch was a long 3 that Durant heaved up with 13 seconds still left on the shot clock.
The body blows from the Warriors evidently took their toll and for the first time in the series, the Thunder seemed to have a seed of doubt planted in their heads.
Thunder vs. Warriors Game 7 Lookahead
The GameTime crew previews Monday night's Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
"Maybe a little bit," Bogut said. "They had the game in control for 3 1/2 quarters and once we were in striking distance, it's tough to have that lead and keep us at bay. All of a sudden we go over the top by three and then six. I guess that's pretty demoralizing."
It was 48 minutes where the raw emotions practically puddled up on the court and raging intensity was palpable in every corner of the full-throated arena. The Thunder were striving to do the hardest task of the playoffs — win a close-out game, while the Warriors were trying to make history as only the 10th team ever to come back from the 3-1 deficit to win a series.
"We knew what we got ourselves into after Game 4," Green said. "We were down, but not out. With those two guys we have over there shooting, we're never out of anything."
Especially not if the defense and the grunt work in the corners gives them a chance.
It was fierce, it was frantic, it was frenzied, it was fabulous.
Over in one corner of the locker room, Thompson stopped for a moment from pulling on a pair of socks and just shook his head.
"You're welcome, NBA!" he said. "You're welcome for that game!"
And the one more it made possible.