The (groin) shot heard ’round the world swung the game wide open for the Thunder en route to a stunning 133-105 rout of the Warriors.
With six minutes left in the first half, Draymond Green (arguably purposefully) kicked out his right leg and hit Steven Adams in the groin on a shot attempt, leaving Adams in a heap on the floor. Green was assessed a Flagrant 1 for his transgression. The Thunder proceeded to close out the half on an effortless 22-5 run, perhaps energized by the inauspicious play and questionable call.
I can safely say that I’ve never before seen the momentum of a game swung by a shot below the belt.
“It happened before, mate,” a toothy-grinned Adams told reporters. “He’s pretty accurate, that guy.”
Adams’ teammates are noticing Green’s dubious behavior. Russell Westbrook seems to think it’s no longer an accident: “That’s 2 times in last 2 games. You can’t keep kicking someone in their private areas.”
Golden State Coach Steve Kerr was pretty confident that Green will not only avoid suspension, but will have the flagrant foul rescinded by the league: “This stuff happens all the time,” Kerr said. “Westbrook kicks his feet out on every 3, and there is contact. I mean, that’s just part of the game. So I don’t understand how that can be deemed a flagrant 1. I think it should be rescinded.”
Coach Billy Donovan and his players’ response was impressive after a disappointing Game 2. The Thunder’s highest five in Plus-Minus (Westbrook, Waiters, Roberson, Durant, Ibaka) were a combined +183 in Game 3. Golden State’s best five (Ian Clark, Mareese Speights, Brandon Rush, Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Varejao) were only +54.
For the first time in meaningful postseason play, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put together four quarters of complete, efficient, and impactful play.
Durant put in a vintage performance, hyper-aggressive from the start. He ended with 33 points on 66% shooting (12-12 FTs), adding eight boards and three blocks. His play on the defensive end, especially in his effort to frustrate Draymond Green offensively, was thrilling. Defensive plays for Durant resulted in easy transition offense. Watch Durant pin Green’s shot to the backboard and pull up for three in transition:
Russell Westbrook scored 30 points on 10-19 shooting, dishing out 12 assists and notching eight rebounds. Serge Ibaka and Andre Roberson must be lauded as well for their offensive output, scoring a combined 27 points on 50% shooting.
OKC’s hustle and focus on defense took the backseat in terms of attention, but their play on that side of the ball was just equally important as their offense in the Thunder’s victory. Six total steals and eight total blocks amounted to Thunder playing physically and staying under the Warriors’ skin. Combine that with the pandemonium created by Thunder fans, and it’s not hard to see how OKC was able to pull away in this game.
Still: a 28 point victory counts just the same as a one point game. Steve Kerr is a masterful, heady coach who must already know what adjustments need to be made. The Warriors, much like the Thunder, don’t put up back-to-back duds. It just doesn’t happen. The Warriors absolutely can not be written off, but if Draymond Green is suspended today upon league review, it might put a dent in their comeback effort.
Game 4 is Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena at 8:00 P.M.
(Thanks to basketball-reference.com for the stats and Reddit user Splash2ndCousin for the videos)