From 3-1 up on the greatest regular season team of all-time, to a game seven road loss away from one of the most disappointing ends to any season in recent NBA history, if the Thunder lose on Monday, they will not find any peace in losing to a better team. They were the better team in this series, and it certainly appears that they have blown it.
It seemed unlikely the OKC Thunder would be able to close out the Warriors in five games, especially while playing on the road. OK, Golden State, take the home win. Don’t end your season on your own court. If you’re the Thunder, you wake up the next day after that loss and you live with it.
But what transpired in the final five or six minutes of game six, a 108-101 loss, will haunt Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant forever.
There aren’t many ways to put it. They combusted. They fell apart.
They had a six point lead with six minutes left. Don’t turn the ball over. Find the open man. Get to the line. Suffocate the two shooters. Play off of the home crowd. They didn’t do that.
They fell flat. They choked.
All that separated them between the biggest upset maybe ever and a trip to the NBA Finals was six minutes of smart, clean basketball. And they couldn’t do it.
Durant, who shot 10 of 31, inexplicably decided to play hero ball from the opening tip. Charles Barkley expressed his concern for this at halftime. He said OKC couldn’t win this way, and he was right.
He took bad shots all night. He flicked up three-pointers with no regard for teammates or context of the game.
When Klay Thompson—whose 39 points will be remembered forever—made a three-pointer with 95 seconds left to put his team up three, Durant missed a pull up three-pointer 12 seconds later. A few possessions after, still down three points, Thompson missed a shot. Durant got the rebound and immediately shuffled it away. Turnover. Steph Curry banked in a runner. That was the game.
Westbrook, who was brilliant for most of the night, could not slow down and focus in the last few minutes of the game. He was all go-go-go when the situation begged for something far more controlled. One of the nails in the coffin was his turnover—which he dribbled off his leg—with 55 seconds to go.
With all due respect to all-time the performance of Klay Thompson, the Thunder lost this game. The Warriors did not win it. In the results-driven NBA Playoffs, there is no place for mistimed hero ball and turnovers.
Now a nearly impossible task lies ahead for this team: beat the Golden State Warriors in a game seven in Oakland. If the Thunder win, it will be one of the most remarkable accomplishments in NBA history.
If the Warriors win, they will march on to a rematch with LeBron James with all the momentum in the world.
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