OAKLAND — In a season full of firsts for the Golden State Warriors, Monday’s first Game 1 playoff defeat under head coach Steve Kerr was by far the least welcome.
The contest was also the first time the 2015-16 Dubs lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who rode a dominant third quarter from Russell Westbrook to a 108-102 victory in Oracle Arena.
But from the W’s perspective, it was a 108-102 wake-up call.
“I don’t think we were ourselves offensively in the second half,” do-everything forward Draymond Green said. “We got away from the ball movement, and everything was [isolation] basketball. Think if we execute our gameplan and play the way we play in the second half, the same thing would work out the way it did in the first half.”
The matchup has all the markings of a memorable series. The two highest-scoring offenses during the regular season feature the most prolific scoring pairs — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on one end, Kevin Durant and Westbrook on the other. It also has some cantankerous bigs from Australia and New Zealand in Andrew Bogut and Steven Adams, and enough role players with irrational confidence — like OKC’s Dion Waiters, who played masterfully down the stretch — to keep things entertaining.
Monday’s game was an indictment of a team that hadn’t been seriously challenged through the first two rounds of the playoffs. A group that appeared too cocksure it would win regardless of how the game was played, of how many times it turned the ball over (14) and committed fouls (the Thunder outscored the Dubs 22-11 from the line).
“Every team is different, and Oklahoma City’s a lot different from Portland. Portland was a lot different from Houston,” Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said. “You have to adapt accordingly with each opponent, and I’m sure we’ll make the adjustments and we’ll take better care of the ball.”
There were other unwelcome firsts for the Dubs, like their lowest second-half and fourth-quarter outputs and biggest comeback allowed (14 points) during this year’s playoffs.
“You hear it all the time, defense wins,” Durant said. “We missed shots. But we just stayed with it on the defensive end, and I think when we got the shots late in the game, we were able to focus in and knock them down.
The biggest difference-maker in the second half was Westbrook, who played an impressive third quarter with 19 points on 5-for-9 shooting and 7-8 free throws, 4 steals, 3 assists and no turnovers. He finished with 27 points, 12 assists and seven steals.
The biggest problem for the Warriors going forward is that Westbrook and Durant didn’t play especially well as they combined to shoot 17-for-51.
“I thought we did a pretty good job [stopping Westbrook and Durant],” Curry said. “Most of the offense goes through them, so they might end up having 20-plus, but it’s the way that they get it that you have to make them work. For the most part from the field we did that. We just gave them 16 points from the free-throw line and that, in turn, slowed the pace down.”
Green insisted the team’s process wouldn’t change ahead of Game 2, despite trailing in a playoff series for the first time in his four-year career.
“I think our defensive game plan was pretty good, really good,” he said. “Offensively we sucked. So that’s something that we know what was the cause of it and that we can improve on. But our preparation won’t change.”
On Wednesday, the Thunder will look to extend their winning streak to five — including three on the road.
Meanwhile, the 73 Dubs will aim to remain the only team never to lose two games in a row — a first Kerr acknowledged he’s “desperate” to avoid.