The Warriors were able to bounce back after their tough loses in game’s 3&4, and now have a sliver of hope in the series. The splash bros were back in their usual form, combining for 58 points, leading the way to victory. The game was in reach of OKC the whole time, led by Kevin Durant’s 2nd 40 point game of the postseason. They had a chance to tie the game with 35 seconds left, down 111-114, but the tying 3 point shot by Kevin Durant was off the mark. They had many chances to put their foot on the gas and finish the series, but they could never seem to take the next step and close it out.
The Thunder’s duo had their highest combined point total of the series, scoring 71 points (Russ 31; KD 40), but it was the lack of production elsewhere that really hurt them. While there is no question that Russ and Kevin could single-handedly lead their team to victory, last night just wasn’t the night. I felt as if nearly every shot the duo took was forced. They decided they were going to stray away from what gave them the 3-1 lead in this series, and play the classic, “hero ball”.
This is when we see the bad side of Russell Westbrook. The side that has always held him back from the “best point guard in the NBA” discussions. He turned the ball over 7 times, and often drove wildly to the basket, throwing up very contested shots. All he needed to do was relax, and play within the game. When Russell gets that “hero ball” mindset, it isn’t pretty, and 7 turnovers is something that just cannot happen, if the Thunder want to close out this series.
It could have worked, and it has before, if the Warriors didn’t get so much production from nearly everyone on their team. Their claims of “strength in numbers” rang true, as their bench outscored OKC’s by 27 points. They won by 9 points, and it was their bench’s stellar play that made the difference in this one.
OKC’s bench on the other hand was non-existent. I find it strange that they have suddenly stopped playing Enes Kanter, a guy who can fill it up in a minimal amount of minutes. He is the best hope for production on their bench, as Dion Waiters has struggled, putting forth a big, fat, zero in game 5.
The Warriors bench allowed them to rest their stars and not lose any steam in the game in doing so. We saw them jumped out to an early 8-0 run behind backup guard Shaun Livingston, when Russell sat to start the 4th quarter, getting some much needed rest. He didn’t get to rest long, as he was quickly subbed back in to try and keep the Warriors at bay, or at least match their scoring output.
This was a hard fought game for both teams, a display of heart, passion, and willpower; but I think it was very telling. OKC played, what was possibly their worst game of the series, turning the ball over 17 times, and they still, almost pulled off the victory. Not only that, but they did so in one of the hardest places to win in the NBA: the Oracle Arena. A couple more made shots by Russell and Durant and the game was theirs. The Thunder will need more production from their bench, and a more efficient performance from Russell Westbrook if they want to close out this series in 6. The pressure now mounts on the Thunder, as a game 7 in the Oracle, is the last thing they want.