May 25, 2016, 8:21 am
Unguardable. The best since Jordan. Video game mode.
You’ve heard the hype all season. You’ve seen the highlights ad nauseam. Just what has happened to back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry in this series?
No. He sat out 19 fourth quarters during the regular season and essentially had two weeks off during the playoffs.
No. He looked “unstoppable” just two weeks ago in Game 4 of the conference semi-finals after he scored 40 points on 16-for-32 shooting in his first game back. No one was excusing him injured when he was shouting “I’m back!” in that game. He blew by Westbrook and Durant a few times on Tuesday and appeared to be at the same speed as was when the media was praising him a week ago. No one will excuse him if he rocks Oracle for Game 5 on Thursday night.
So what is it? This seems more like Game 2 of the NBA Finals 2015 Curry who struggled when it mattered most and couldn’t handle the looks the defense was giving him. The Thunder weren’t biting on the off ball screens to get him wide open. He was absolutely smothered. Maybe the Monstars stole his powers.
Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals rocked the basketball world on Tuesday night. Let’s get in to that and more in Wednesday’s Daily Dish:
THUNDER 118, WARRIORS 94
It took 39 games for the Warriors to get to three losses in the regular season. They have now dropped three out of four to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Perhaps they have met their match, as the Thunder are the most athletic team with length Golden State has faced all season. Forget the past. The time is now.
Nobody knows that better than Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. They are on a quest to seize the moment and get revenge on LeBron in the NBA Finals. You can believe they hear the Warriors vs. Cavs II whispers over and over. The media has successfully distracted the world by their constant Curry coddling. More fuel for the Thunder. Sometimes it simply comes down to who wants it more.
Let’s face it. Westbrook is severely outplaying Steph Curry in this series. The Thunder were 18-0 coming in to Game 4 when Westbrook posts a triple double this season. Last night was no different. Westbrook went off for 36 points (12-for-27 FGs, 8-for-8 FTs) with 11 rebounds (five offensive!), 11 dimes, four steals and four threes in 41 minutes. He became the first player to put up a 30-point triple-double in the playoffs against the defending champs since Charles Barkley in 1993 (how turrrabllle). He and Curry have officially switched bodies.
“I play every game like it’s my last, regardless of who’s in front of me,” Westbrook said. “That’s my job, and my job is to worry about my team, and that’s all I do.” With five offensive rebounds and a ball of energy from start to finish, the Thunder have followed Westbrook’s lead.
Meanwhile, the rumors of KD dipping (is that what kids are saying these days?) town for a ring have certainly quieted down with each win the Thunder have acquired over the Spurs and Warriors. Durant struggled to shoot the ball some in Game 4 but made up for it all over the stat sheet. He scored 26 points (8-for-24 FGs, 9-for-10 FTs) with 11 rebounds, four assists, four steals, three blocks and one three ball in 41 minutes. KD is being very aggressive to get to the rim which is opening things up for his teammates. He won’t have it as easy on the road in a close out game on Thursday night.
One of those teammates who is repeatedly getting open looks is Andre Roberson. Roberson scored 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field with 12 rebounds, three assists, five steals, two blocks and one three ball in 40 minutes. The Warriors have been cheating off of him all series and he is making them pay. He is quickly becoming a major X-factor for the Thunder both on offense and defense.
The Thunder also got a nice boost in their frontcourt. Serge Ibaka was efficient with 7-for-11 shooting for 17 points, seven boards, two blocks and one three ball. It was just like old times. Steven Adams was aggressive and got to the line for eight free throws, which set the tone down low for the Thunder. He finished with 11 points (2-for-4 FGs, 7-for-8 FTs), seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in 25 minutes. All hands will need to be on deck if the Thunder want to close the series on the road in Game 5 on Thursday night.
As for the Warriors, body language is very apparent. They are rattled. Swag has left the atmosphere. Perhaps they left it at Oracle Arena. It all starts with Steph Curry. He was an abomination last night to the tune of 6-for-20 shooting (2-for-10 3PTs) for 19 points, five boards, five assists, two steals and six turnovers. The 91% free throw shooter also went 5-for-7 from the line. Shots need to start falling.
His fall from glory in this series is a loaded question with a loaded answer. Curry is working hard to get open. The Thunder aren’t falling for it. They have the athleticism to recover on off ball screens rather than chase him through around. The Thunder are long and aren’t afraid to control the match up with a sizable front court. Billy Donovan is severely out-coaching Steve Kerr by having a defensive answer for every scheme thrown at him. Of course, its a lot easier to play defense when your offense has all-world talent in Westbrook and Durant and averages 119 points in each game.
If you thought Curry was out of sorts, Draymond Green was on vacation. After the NBA decided his kick to the groin of Steven Adams was not worthy of a suspension, it seemed like destiny would settle in since the Warriors caught a break. He might as well have been suspended. Dray shot 1-for-7 from the field for six points with 11 boards, two assists, three steal, one block and six turnovers in 38 minutes. He had never recorded a +/- of -20 or worse in his career prior to this series. In Games 3 & 4, Dray has been -43 and -30 in those games respectively. It will be interesting to see if Dray keeps his playoff diary if the Warriors fold.
The only reason why the Warriors were within nine points in the fourth quarter was Klay Thompson. With the team struggling to stay in the game, Klay hit four treys for 26 points with five boards, three steals and one block in 29 minutes. He will need to repeat his performance and get some help if the Warriors want to avoid elimination.
Game 5 is on Thursday night at Oracle Arena.