Thunder roll out the big sticks for Game 3

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant wants his team to stay focused. Whether it’s dealing with bad calls from refs or taking big leads in games and not letting up, he wants Oklahoma City to never stop fighting.

Durant got what he wanted Sunday in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. After the Thunder took a large lead against Golden State, they never let up and poured out a 133-105 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena to take a two-games-to-one lead in the series.

“When you get to this point in the season, you have to be a smart team,” Durant said. “We can’t let anything district you. That’s always been like the mantra. Just got to not worry, not try to let anything distract us. I think everybody just stayed together and we just kept playing. Tonight, we just kept our foot on the gas and just kept cruising.”

The 133 points are a Thunder playoff record and the most points scored by any team this postseason.

Durant scored 33 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and 12-of-12 from the free-throw line to go along with eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Russell Westbrook tallied 30 points and 12 assists, and he was two rebounds away from his first triple-double of the postseason.

“My job as a guard is to get those guys shots and trust in those guys,” Westbrook said. “Got to keep the same intensity. Stay in attack mode. Find my spots, pick my spots and try and stay aggressive.

Serge Ibaka scored 14, and Andre Roberson and Dion Waiters posted 13 points apiece. Enes Kanter amassed 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Steph Curry paced the Warriors with 24 points on 7-of-17 shooting, including 3-of-11 success from 3-point range. Klay Thompson scored 18 points.

“It was very uncharacteristic of us tonight on both ends of the floor,” Thompson said. “I mean, you only finish with 19 assists and that not like us.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was unable to find one facet of the game that his team will be able to take any positives from.

“It’s all troubling,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “When you lose by 30, it’s all troubling.””

Game 4 is Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

With their home crowd urging them on, the Thunder came out roaring to start the game. Led by the energy of Ibaka, they quickly took a 13-point lead.

The Warriors were able to come back and tie the game at 38-38 in the second quarter. But from that point on, Oklahoma City pulled away, outscoring the Warriors 34-9 the rest of the half.

The Thunder held a 72-47 halftime lead despite connecting on only three 3-pointers. They were able to do most of their work in the paint (34 points) and on fastbreaks (22).

Draymond Green, who was held to six points, four rebounds and three assists, kicked Thunder center Steven Adams in the groin and was called for a controversial Flagrant Foul 1. The NBA reviews all flagrant fouls and will decide what action to take.

“I thought it was inadvertent,” Kerr said. “There was contact on the play. I was shocked they even looked at it. Scott Foster told me they were looking at it to either determine if it was Flagrant 1 or Flagrant 2, I was in shock. There is inadvertent contact all the time on plays. So that really surprised. I would think they would rescind it. This stuff happens all the time.”

Curry agreed with his coach.

“There was no intent,” Curry said. “Watching the replay, I think that’s clear.”

The Thunder are not so sure.

“The way I look it,” Westbrook said, “it looks intentional to me.”

The pummeling continued in the third quarter. Golden State had no answers for any part of Oklahoma City’s offensive attack and defensive ferocity. Curry and Thompson didn’t help matters by missing shots they normally knock down.

Even as the lead grew to more than 30 points, Oklahoma City’s defense stayed focused on not allowing Golden State to find any momentum that could carry over into Game 4.

“They are a great team,” Westbrook said. “They didn’t have the best record in the NBA for nothing. We have to come back with the same mindset and try and take care of business.”

Will Thunder regain advantage on the boards?

By Michael Kinney

The Western Conference Finals between Oklahoma City and Golden State has defined in terms of big vs little. Can the size of the Thunder win out against the quickness of the Warriors?

In Game 1, it played out just how the Thunder wanted when they wore down the Warriors in the second half and dominated on the boards.

Game 2 was more toward Golden State’s pace with a barrage of 13 three-pointers led by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

However, the Warriors also did something in Game 2 that caught Oklahoma City off-guard. They won the rebound battle 54-45. That included a 15-7 advantage on the offensive backboards.

For a team that has been No. 1 in rebounding all season and can put three seven-footers on the court at the same time, being letting a smaller team beat them on the boards can’t happen.

“After what we did to them in the first game, definitely the second game they came out ready and they were really physical,” Enes Kanter said. “We know, I think the third game we just need to come out there with the mindset that it is going to be a really physical game and we need to punish them down there because we can use our size, we can use our physicality. And it’s in front of our crowd, so just go out there and play.”

Kevin Durant agrees Oklahoma City lost out on the hustle points to the Golden State and that showed in the rebound numbers.

I think they just got all the 50-50 balls on the offensive glass,” Durant said. “It kind of surprises when guys are running in there because we’re so good in transition. I thought the team always yell and get back. But they were in there and able to get their hands on some basketballs. So you have to give them credit. It’s on us to make adjustments, boxing guys out and putting bodies on them and getting those rebounds. As simple as that. So we can’t have that next game.”

Game 3 is Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

Two games into the series, fans have seen good, the bad and ugly of the Thunder. However, they have yet to see the best. Durant has to shoulder a lot of the blame for that with bad shooting performance in Game 1 and the turnovers in both contests.

“What they’re doing is a little different,” Dion Waiters said. “Catching the ball and running two at him. So as long as he’s aware of it and he feels the guy coming, he’s always going to make the extra pass and guys are going to be open. He knows that, so I’m not worried about that. He can make adjustments during the game, figuring out what they’re doing because they’re just doing a lot of different things, just trying stuff. So that’s all you’ve got to do.”

Durant agrees he has to be stronger with the ball and more focused on where the defenders are coming from.

“It’s me just finding out when the double team’s coming. Once I get it, I feel like I’m playing one-on-one, but it’s more so a load, and guys are loading,” Durant said. “So I’ve just got to make a stronger pass and find out where guys are. They were sending three guys, I was trying to make the right pass. I was turning the ball over playing the crowd. So maybe I just got to shoot over three people.”

The goal in most seven-game series is for the road team to get a split of the first two games. However, the Thunder have been down that road before and wanted to come back home with a 2-0 advantage.

That didn’t happy and they are not content with the 1-1 tie.

“We’re upset. Guys in the locker room, we weren’t happy because we only won just one game,” Durant said. “We were upset that we didn’t play well tonight and get the second one. But we’re going home, and we can’t relax. At home you tend to let your guard down a bit because you’re at home and you think you’re going to win. But we’ve got to come out here and play. We’ve got to play our brand of basketball even better than what we did when we were in Oakland.”

Being home doesn’t guarantee the Thunder will finally be at their best. They lost their one and only meeting in Oklahoma City with the Warriors during the regular season.

“Well, it’s going to be my first Western Conference Finals in front of OKC fans,” Kanter said. “I’m expecting everybody to show up and it’s going to be definitely a crazy atmosphere. I think just not worry about the second game. Just go out there and play our basketball in front of our crowd and everything is going to work out well for us.”

Michael Kinney is a freelance writer and can be reached at eyeamtruth@gmail.com

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