Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were the primary catalysts behind the Golden State Warriors' record-setting 73-win regular season, and they came up with signature performances Saturday night while facing elimination in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.
Although the defending champions trailed by eight points entering the fourth quarter, Thompson and Curry both erupted down the stretch, raining down three-pointers and silencing the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd to capture a 108-101 win and force a Game 7 on Monday.
Curry, who started the game in sluggish fashion, thrived in the clutch and banked in an off-balance runner with 14.3 seconds remaining to put the Warriors up by five and seal the deal, as the NBA on TNT documented on Twitter:
Curry flirted with a triple-double to the tune of 31 points (9-of-22 shooting, 6-of-13 from three), 10 rebounds and nine assists, but his late-game heroics wouldn't have been possible if Thompson hadn't set the stage with a flurry of triples in perhaps the finest performance of his postseason career.
Over the course of 40 minutes, Thompson poured in a game-high 41 points (14-of-30 shooting) while drilling an NBA playoff-record 11 treys:
As a team, the Warriors knocked down 21 triples—shots that accounted for 58.3 percent of their total made field goals in the win. On the flip side, Oklahoma City shot 3-of-23 from beyond the arc, and Kevin Durant struggled with 29 points on 10-of-31 shooting, including 1-of-8 from three.
Russell Westbrook added 28 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds and four steals, but those numbers were overshadowed by his late-game carelessness. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Westbrook committed four turnovers during the final 1:29 of the fourth quarter after having coughed the rock up just once prior to that.
Because Westbrook couldn't keep a grip on the ball in the game's waning seconds, the Thunder lost the turnover battle, 15-14. To date, the team that has committed more turnovers has lost every game in the series.
And while the Thunder were doomed by the convergence of several factors, their inability to jump all over a Warriors team that stumbled out of the gates cost them in the end.
Oklahoma City owned a three-point lead after the first quarter even though Durant shot 2-of-10 from the field. As ESPN.com's Ethan Strauss observed, the Warriors looked tentative and were fortunate to be as close as they were:
The Thunder's margin ballooned to double digits throughout the early stages of the second quarter, and it took the Warriors time to shrink the deficit since their bench contributors were ice-cold.
Andre Iguodala was the only Golden State reserve who mustered a made field goal in the first half, and Oklahoma City took advantage with a more balanced effort that featured positive contributions from Andre Roberson, Serge Ibaka, Dion Waiters, Enes Kanter and Steven Adams—who exacted revenge on Draymond Green and posterized him with authority:
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Despite all of the factors that were working against them, the Warriors absorbed body blows from the Thunder and ducked away from a few potential haymakers to hang tough and enter halftime down by just five points, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein:
The Ringer's Bill Simmons was impressed by the Warriors' resolve:
Once the second half started, the Warriors found their signature swagger. Although they didn't resemble the 73-win world-beaters for the entirety of the final 24 minutes, the Dubs shed their nerves and fed off Thompson's sweet shooting.
Curry, in particular, found another gear. After mustering nine points in the first half, the two-time MVP had 22 second-half points, including three massive shots down the stretch.
With Game 7 slated for Monday night at Oracle Arena, Curry, Thompson and Co. will look to harness all of their late-game energy from Game 6 and come all the way back from their 3-1 deficit.
And even though it sounds crazy, there will likely be less pressure on the Warriors in Game 7 than there was Saturday night.
Thanks to their furious finish, the Warriors are headed back to the Bay Area with a chance to silence the Thunder once and for all, while Oklahoma City will be looking for an upset that once appeared far more feasible.
NBA TV on Twitter captured Warriors head coach Steve Kerr’s initial reaction to the win:
"I don't think there can be more pressure on us in Game 7 than there was tonight," Kerr added, according to CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore.
Kerr also waxed poetic about Thompson’s record-setting night, as the NBA on TNT documented:
"The beauty of Steph and Klay is they walk that line between lethal and crazy," Kerr said of his two sharpshooters, per the Washington Post’s Tim Bontemps.
"What a game. What a game," Thompson said, according to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears. "The NBA should thank us for that game."
According to ESPN.com’s Royce Young, Thunder head coach Billy Donovan pointed to lethargic offensive play as a reason for the team's late collapse:
"Give credit to [Andre] Iguodala," Thompson said, acknowledging his teammate's role in Durant’s poor shooting night, per ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon.
"Not supposed to be easy," Kanter said, per the team’s official Twitter account. "It's hard...beat them once there, can do it again. We'll go to Game 7 [and] give it everything we have."
"We know we've got another game to play," Durant said, per MacMahon. "We're excited about that. We can't hang our heads."