OAKLAND — The Warriors’ dream season has taken a nightmarish turn in the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After completing the best regular season of all time, the Dubs find themselves one loss away from a historical letdown.
The odds are stacked against Golden State: Only nine teams in NBA history have overcome a 3-1 series deficit. And the Warriors hadn’t suffered back-to-back postseason defeats by at least 20 points since the 1972 Western Conference Semifinals.
“It’s all or nothing. We’ve put too much work to go out like this,” Draymond Green said after Game 4. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself all summer going out like this.”
Green was the embodiment of the Dubs’ struggles in Oklahoma City. He followed up the worst performance of his career as a starter with an equally poor outing on Tuesday. In Games 3 and 4, he played 69 minutes, shooting 2-for-16 from the floor — 0-for-4 from behind the arc — and he turned the ball over 10 times with only five assists. He was also minus-73 after finishing the regular season behind only LeBron James for the league lead in real plus-minus, according to ESPN.
“Draymond, by his own admission, was not himself the last couple games,” head coach Steve Kerr said on Wednesday. “I’m always 100 percent confident in Draymond and his ability to respond to adversity. That’s what he’s all about.”
If the W’s are to overcome adversity, they’re going to have to slow Russell Westbrook, who’s playing the best basketball of his career. The explosive point guard “created, assisted or scored 76” of the Thunder’s 118 points in Game 4, according to Synergy Tech Sports.
“I play every game like it’s my last, regardless of who’s in front of me,” he said after the game.
Part of the reason Golden State’s “Death Lineup” struggled so much at executing Kerr’s ball-movement offense was because they were making “silly passes,” as the coach called them, accumulating 11 turnovers in 34 minutes this series, according to Matt Moore of CBS Sports.
That’s because MVP Stephen Curry, the player who makes the Dubs’ small-ball set work, hasn’t looked like himself in the series, except for a stretch in Game 2 when he hit 15 points in less than two minutes.
His poor play has led many to speculate about his health. After Game 4, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, cited a “source close to Curry” who said the Greatest Basketball Player on Earth is “playing at 70 percent, at best.”
Kerr was quick to dismiss outside chatter and concerns about his superstar’s health on the eve of potential elimination.
“Nobody has said anything about Steph being 70 percent to me: our training staff, relatives, friends, sources with knowledge of our team’s thinking,” Kerr said. “Nobody has told me he’s 70 percent. Apparently, they told the media, but they didn’t tell me.”
It won’t matter what percentage Curry is playing at if the W’s can’t win three straight to fend off becoming a historical footnote — a mix between the 2001 Seattle Mariners who won 116 games but were bounced early in the playoffs by the New York Yankees and the 2007 New England Patriots, who famously pursued an undefeated season that was eventually cut short in the Super Bowl.
“Momentum can shift quickly in the playoffs,” Kerr said. “We’ve seen that the last couple of years. Let’s take care of business at home and get some momentum back and we’ll have a chance.”