In a 336-minute, seven-game series, the Golden State Warriors needed less than 170 seconds in the third quarter to dismantle, dishearten and dispose of the Oklahoma City Thunder, doing what they do best and knocking down five treys in three minutes to earn their second consecutive berth in the NBA Finals with a 96-88 victory Monday night.
Of course, it started and ended with Stephen Curry.
After a rugged first half that saw Golden State walk into intermission down six, all it took was a 28-foot triple from Curry at the 9:18 mark to cut the Thunder’s lead to five, 50-45, and help the Warriors regain their rhythm.
Then, after a Serge Ibaka midrange jumper, it was Klay Thompson’s turn. The second Splash Brother promptly drilled a right-side triple over Steven Adams. 52-48, advantage OKC.
On the next Golden State possession, Curry, shadowed closely by the rangy Kevin Durant, tripped down the lane and, from under the basket, wrapped a pass around to wing Andre Iguodala, who caught, shot and drained the three, bringing things within three, 54-51.
And after another Curry trey — tie game! — the Warriors got the ball back with a little over 6:30 remaining in the period. What happened next was as incredible as it was predictable.
Stephen Curry, with the rock in his hands on the left wing, began to toy with Thunder big man Adams. Then with Adams’ arm outstretched, with the seven-footer’s hand in his face, Curry crossed and double-crossed the ball, dancing with Adams for just a moment more before letting the shot fly — and earning Golden State the lead.
With that fifth three in that three-minute span, the Warriors were rolling. And it was thanks to their knock-down shooting that they were able to weather a late Oklahoma City run, shooting 45.9 percent from beyond the arc en route to victory, pushing home teams’ records in Game 7’s to 101-24.
Asked about Curry’s performance, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr’s answer came quickly.
“This is who he is,” Kerr said. “Having a clutch performance in a Game 7? That’s Steph Curry.”
Curry finished with a game-high 36 points, going 7-of-12 from downtown, including those crucial jumpers to resuscitate his team in the third. For the Thunder, it was Kevin Durant who kept them in the game all night, ending his season with a 27-point performance, playing almost every second of the night.
“They beat us from the 3-point line the last two games,” Durant said after the game. “We beat them from everywhere else … That was the series.”
Golden State will begin their next challenge on Thursday, as they take on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a rematch of last year’s Finals. The Warriors may have come out on top in 2015, but with a much healthier Cleveland team in tow, they’ll need to play like they did in Monday’s third quarter if they want to hoist up that Larry O’Brien trophy once more.
source: huffingtonpost.com by Juliet Spies-Gans