Five takeaways from Game 4 of The Blowout Formerly Known As The Western Conference Finals on Tuesday night …
Something is wrong here. No, something is terribly wrong.
The Oklahoma City Thunder smoked the Warriors like a bad cigar, 118-94, another stunner that left the Champs staring down the barrel of a 3-1 deficit in the series. Wasn’t this supposed to be a team for the ages, one that had just set the standard for excellence in the regular season? Weren’t they in the debate of greatest NBA teams ever only days ago?
Has coach Steve Kerr lost control of the team? Have the Warriors tanked in an attempt to convince Kevin Durant to sign with them?
“We competed tonight, but we didn’t play intelligently,” a glum Kerr was at a loss afterward.
The outcome had a lot more to do with focus, smarts and desire than physical talent. For that, pin the blame on Kerr, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry, the team leaders.
Except for some brief moments, Curry hasn’t been his electric self ever since he insisted on playing on a bum ankle in the first round. He was held to 19 points on 2 of 10 from beyond the arc and committed a half-dozen turnovers. Sure, the Thunder made a commitment to contest every shot possible, but the unanimous Most Valuable Player missed too many bunnies to think that all was well in his world.
“He’s not injured,” Kerr insisted. “He just had a lousy game. It happens.”
Yeah, and the Coach of the Year wasn’t very good, either.
After Klay Thompson almost single-handedly shot the visitors into contention in the third quarter, Kerr was left to decide whether to give him or Curry a blow. Even with four fouls, Thompson (26 points) represented the best chance to pull this one out. Instead, Curry stayed in the game.
Now the Warriors have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.
2. Here’s what should concern the Warriors more than anything: When Russell Westbrook expressed a desire to distribute the ball more and shoot it less a few weeks ago, he apparently meant it.
At 6-foot-9, Durant represents an impossible matchup. But if Curry continues to struggle while Westbrook plays out of this world, the Thunder have the two best players in the series. That’s a hard combination to beat.
Westbrook went off for 36 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and four steals, while Durant finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots.
Add Serge Ibaka and his 17 points, seven rebounds and two shot rejections, and the Battle of the Big Threes wasn’t close at all.
3. Don’t blame the league for this one. It did everything in its power to give the Warriors a hand in this one.
One day earlier, the No Balls Association announced that Green would be fined but not suspended for his well-executed crotch shot on the Thunder’s Steven Adams in Game 3. Police chief Kiki Vandeweghe can insult us all he wants with talk about an in-depth investigation into the Blunder Down Under, but this was a business decision, not about what was fair and right. See, ESPN and Turner will shell out a ridiculous $2.6 billion to televise NBA games annually under the terms of their new deal, a staggering 180 percent increase over the last one. They don’t want second-stringers, one-sided games and short series. They want controversy, suspense and drama. Green is one of the few players who can provide all three on a a given night.
4. Maybe the Warriors would have been better off without Green, who was even worse than his numbers — six points, 11 rebounds and a half-dozen turnovers.
Green comes off perhaps the two worst performances in NBA postseason history. He was minus 43 in the third game, the worst total since at least 1997, when the league began to track the statistic. He was minus 30 in Game 4.
Co-owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob have to pay $82 million for that?
“Couple bad games in a row,” Kerr said in a super-sized understatement. “He has to bounce back. We all have to bounce back.”
5. As downright awful as the Warriors were the last two games, don’t write them off yet.
If and when the Warriors take care of business at Oracle Arena on Thursday night, the pressure will be squarely on the Thunder to seal the deal in Game 6 at their place. Otherwise, the series will return to Oakland for the decisive seventh game.
First, Kerr and company will have to find a way to contain Westbrook and the Thunder’s big men and regain their mojo on offense. They’ve got one day to figure it out.
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