OAKLAND — The days of successfully switching a big man onto Stephen Curry are over.
The Oklahoma City Thunder learned the hard way as their inability to defend the pick-and-roll ended their season on Monday.
The Splash Brothers — Curry and Klay Thompson — combined to hit 13 3-pointers on 24 attempts in the Golden State Warriors’ 96-88 Game 7 victory. But it was the unanimous MVP’s second-half onslaught that reminded the world why he was essential to the greatest regular-season run in NBA history.
“I could tell in Game 6 that he was starting to feel like himself,” Kerr said when asked about Curry attacking OKC’s bigs. “… He looked like he was moving better. I told our coaching staff yesterday, I have no doubt Steph’s going to have a huge game. That’s just who he is.”
On different trips down the floor, Curry sank 3-pointers after crossing over Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant — all 7-footers or close to it — to electrify an Oracle Arena crowd that rose to the occasion of the biggest game of the season.
It also made the 73 Dubs just the 10th team in history to overcome a 3-1 deficit.
“We’re a mature basketball team that tried our best not to listen to the noise outside when six, seven days ago we’re down 3-1, everybody thought the wheels were falling off and it was kind of the end of our run,” Curry said. “But in that locker room, the talk was positive. It was, ‘Let’s figure this out; let’s go out and take it one game at a time and claw our way back into the series and see what happens.’”
After a transcendent performance in Game 6 to extend the Dubs’ season, Thompson missed his first seven shots from the field. His poor start was in line with the rest of the Warriors, who fell behind as many as 13 points in the second quarter.
But Curry went end-to-end to beat the buzzer with a high-glass layup heading into halftime, trailing a manageable 48-42.
Kerr’s second-half adjustments, combined with Curry attacking slow-footed big men on the perimeter, swung momentum in Golden State’s favor. Steph started with a 3-pointer in Ibaka’s face three minutes into the third quarter.
Thompson gave Adams a similar treatment on the Dubs’ next possession. Then, after Durant hit an impossible shot to maintain a Thunder lead, Curry drew the attention of the entire OKC defense and swung the ball to Andre Iguodala, who hit a 3-pointer of his own. One more Curry trey over Adams and the game was tied, 54-54.
“He scored a lot on our bigs,” Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook said. “He did a good job of making some tough shots over our bigs.”
The ultimate dagger fell in the fourth quarter when Curry was fouled by Ibaka, effectively ending the Thunder’s season. The MVP scored 24 in the second half, and finished with 36 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
The Warriors advanced to their second-straight NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who haven’t played since beating the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday.
Many questioned whether the Champs would be able to defend their title after falling within one game of elimination, but team mouthpiece Draymond Green never had a doubt.
“After [Game 4] we just said this team has done a lot of stuff that no one’s ever seen, and people have seen teams down 3-1 before, but they ain’t seen many, and they’ve definitely never seen a 73-win team down 3-1. So let’s continue to do the things that they haven’t seen and that they’ll never give us a chance to do,” Green said.
The Cavs should be advised: Switching Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love or Channing Frye onto the Greatest Basketball Player on Earth would be a mistake.