NBA

Champion Warriors Wilt, Westbrook and Thunder Stun

Champion Warriors Wilt, Westbrook and Thunder Stun

It may have not seemed that way until the final buzzer sounded, but the Thunder were firmly in control of the game in their 108-102 victory over the (insert superlative here) Golden State Warriors.

Looking at the Four Factors (Dean Oliver’s measurement of basketball success) in Game 1, the Thunder led handily in turnover percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, and free throws per field goals attempted. The effective field goal percentage was slightly lower than Golden State, but no one is going to beat the Warriors by trying to outshoot them.

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How good it must feel for Westbrook, Durant, and company to finally crack the win column against the Warriors after losing several times in the regular season in heartbreaking fashion. What must feel even better is stealing home court advantage from the Dubs, handing them their first Game 1 loss at home in 24 years.

Despite the fact that Westbrook and Durant were never able to turn it on at the same time, Golden State couldn’t take advantage of their paltry 17-51 shooting effort. Durant ended the night with 26 points (on 33% shooting), adding 10 rebounds, three steals, three assists, and a block. He shot poorly down the stretch, but hit a clutch 17-foot jumper with just over 30.5 remaining to put Golden State away:

 

Although Durant missed eight of his last nine shots, Westbrook was able to guide the Thunder down the stretch. Despite shooting 1-8 at the half, Russell was able to turn it around and post a 19 point quarter on 5-9 shooting, also notching 7-8 free throws, four steals, three assists, and zero turnovers. His work in the third quarter completely turned the game around and allowed the Thunder to erase a lead that was 13 at the break.

The Thunder role players were incredible yet again. Steven Adams is earning himself some serious money this postseason, potentially setting himself up for a Tristan Thompson-style payday. The big man had 16 points, 12 rebounds, and was a +20 while on the floor. For reference, the next best two players were Durant and Westbrook at +8.

Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson have become a great two-headed attack for the Thunder. Roberson–who has seemed to find his offense lately–creates havoc on the defensive end with his large frame and physical play. His defensive effort creates turnovers that result in easy transition buckets, and sometimes he’s the direct beneficiary:

 

 

 

Waiters is not afraid to take the important shots, and so far in the playoffs, they’ve fallen:

Roberson and Waiters combined for 17 points on 7-9 shooting and six rebounds. Against the Warriors (who arguably have the deepest bench in the league) this kind of contribution from role players is incredibly encouraging.

It’s hard to say how either team adjusts from here. I was, frankly, surprised to see the Thunder stay so composed and focused in the fourth quarter while the champs lost their poise. Donovan–realizing that his team was not going to out-shoot and beat Kerr at his own small-ball game–stayed big with Kanter and Adams, allowing the Warriors to continue heave ill-advised three-pointers when they should have been passing the ball and looking for easier shots.

I mean, the Warriors only scored 14 in fourth quarter. Arguably the best team of all time wilted under pressure while Westbrook and Durant made smart offensive and defensive plays down the stretch. In the fourth, Steph Curry shot just 1-6 and turned the ball over seven times in the fourth. The Thunder can’t count on that kind of dud again.

It’s an encouraging start, but remember: Game 1 does not define the series.

Game 2 is tomorrow at 8 P.M. in Oakland.

(Thanks to Reddit user Splash2ndCousin for the videos and basketball-reference.com for the statistics)

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