OAKLAND — Win the third quarter, win the game.
That’s been the story of the Western Conference Finals so far as the Golden State Warriors outscored the Oklahoma City Thunder in the third period 31-19, eventually going on to win 118-91.
Stephen Curry’s barrage of 3-pointers during a 15-2 run that lasted a little more than two minutes will be the topic of conversation. (The back-to-back MVP scored 17 points in the frame.)
But perhaps the biggest key was limiting superstar forward Kevin Durant to just two shot attempts in the third after he scored 23 in the first half. Durant, himself the 2013-14 MVP, went from being unstoppable to getting frustrated into a technical foul and turning the ball over three times in 10 minutes.
“They were sending three guys, I was trying to make the right pass,” Durant said. “I was turning the ball over playing the crowd. So maybe I just got to shoot over three people.”
Draymond Green played the entire third quarter, facilitating the massive run that ultimately tied the series. The do-everything forward scored just two points on as many shots, but impacted the game in other ways — a beautiful pass to Harrison Barnes for a corner 3 started the third quarter onslaught.
Green also did what the Warriors couldn’t on Monday by stopping an attacking Russell Westbrook from getting to the rim in the open court.
“I thought he made some big defensive plays in the third quarter, deflections, and that allowed us to get out and run,” Kerr said of his first-team all-defense forward. “Oftentimes he becomes kind of the ball handler in transition with Steph and Klay running the wings. So there were some plays there where we broke free and Steph was able to get some looks and get going.”
The Warriors outplayed the Thunder in the first half. But instead of allowing Westbrook’s overwhelming energy to change the game, they held him to 16 points — almost 10 fewer than his 2016 postseason average.
Intent on killing the talk of being unable to compete with OKC’s length, the Dubs outrebounded the Thunder 45-36. Kerr previously said he didn’t expect his team to win the battle on the boards.
“Well, I rescind that statement that I made,” he joked. “No, we just did a much better job of trying to be active and get bodies on people. Sometimes the ball bounces your way a little bit more, which I thought it did tonight. But mainly just a good activity level.”
The Warriors fixed what ailed them in the first contest: They cut down on turnovers and limited the Thunder’s role players. The Greatest Basketball Player on Earth also re-established his otherworldly shooting stroke after taking a tumble into the crowd.
Coaches from both teams will have plenty of time to adjust before Game 3, which tips off in OKC on Sunday.
“When you’re going on the road in the playoffs, your motto is always go win one game, and
they did that,” Green said. “Now it’s up to us to do our job and go win one game and try to take home-court advantage back.”