The Oklahoma City Thunder are one win away from a National Basketball Association Western Conference finals upset after their 118-94 home victory May 24 over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the playoffs.
Having already won Game 3 on their home court, the Thunder’s fourth game in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was their second straight against the Warriors in the series, which marked the first time in the season that Golden State lost back-to-back games.
Golden State won a record 73 games during the regular season and was drawing consideration as one of the greatest rosters in league history, but is now in danger of missing the NBA finals.
Oklahoma City’s point guard Russell Westbrook, who has excelled all series long, had a triple double in Game 4 that consisted of 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Stephen Curry, Westbrook’s opponent at the point guard position, uncharacteristically struggled on offense for a majority of the night. Credit Westbrook’s defensive effort, which caused Curry, the reigning two-time league MVP and 2015-2016 scoring champion, to go 6-20 from the field and 2-10 from three-point range. To go along with the pressure he created against Curry’s shot, Westbrook also had four steals and was responsible for several of the six turnovers Curry committed.
The Warriors struggled as a team to hold onto the ball as they combined to commit 23 turnovers in Game 4. Issues with turnovers have been Golden State’s one glaring weakness this season as they had the sixth most giveaways in the NBA during the regular season.
Despite what the final score indicates, Game 4 was a hard-fought battle for most of the way. Both teams got off to hot offensive starts, with the score at the end of the first quarter 30-26 in favor of the Thunder.
However, OKC exploded on offense in the second quarter and put significant distance between themselves and Golden State by outscoring the Warriors 42-27 in the period.
At halftime, the Thunder found themselves with a comfortable 19-point 72-53 lead over the Warriors.
Westbrook had an incredible first half in which he scored 21 points, dished out nine assists, and pulled down five rebounds. Forward Kevin Durant also contributed 18 points for the Thunder in the first half.
However, the defending champion Warriors were not yet out for the count as they began a furious comeback in the third quarter. Golden State went on a 21-8 run in the first seven minutes of the third to cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 6 points.
The hot hand of shooting guard Klay Thompson almost single-handedly led Golden State’s third quarter charge. After Warriors’ center Andrew Bogut scored the first two points of the quarter on a tip-in, Thompson went on to score the next 19 points on in the period for the Warriors.
During Golden State’s 21-8 run, Thompson had a block and a rebound, and he shot 6-8 from the field, burying four three-point field goals in the process.
The Thunder were able to respond to the Warrior’s run by outscoring them 14-8 in the final few minutes of the third quarter. Entering the fourth quarter, OKC had a 12-point 94-82 lead over Golden State.
Golden State got off to the start they wanted in the fourth when Klay Thompson drained a deep three-pointer in the first 13 seconds of the period to cut OKC’s lead back to single digits. However, Thompson’s three-pointer marked the final time in Game 4 that the Warriors would be able to come with 10 points of the Thunder.
After empty possessions for both teams following the Thompson three, Kevin Durant buried a three-pointer of his own, which made the score 97-85 and pushed the Thunder’s lead back to 12 points. Durant went 1-2 from the free throw line a minute and 33 seconds later to increase OKC’s lead to 13 points.
Durant’s free throw was the single point scored for both teams during a 2:03 stretch after he and Thompson hit back-to-back threes. That stretch ended when Durant found shooting guard Andre Roberson wide open on the three-point line and assisted him on a basket that pushed Oklahoma City’s lead to 16 points.
If Roberson’s three wasn’t the dagger that closed out the Warriors, it was his dunk at the 5:37 mark in the fourth quarter, which gave OKC a 107-89 lead, that sealed Golden States’ fate.
Oklahoma City went on to outscore the Warriors 24-12 in the fourth quarter and cruised to a 118-94 victory.
Roberson stepped up for the Thunder in almost every way a role player can do so. The second year shooting guard had a fourth quarter in which he grabbed four rebounds, blocked a shot, handed out two assists and scored 12 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting from the field. Roberson finished the game with 12 total rebounds and a career high 17 points.
The Thunder also got key contributions from forward Serge Ibaka, who finished Game 4 with 17 points and 2 blocks.
With solid outings from their role players, and team stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combining for 62 points, 22 rebounds and 15 assists, OKC was no match for the Warriors.
Stephen Curry, who was held to just 19 points in Game 4, was not the only Warriors star that struggled. Golden State forward Draymond Green, who was allowed to play in Game 4 despite a controversial foul in Game 3, had just 6 points on 1-7 shooting from the floor, and a plus-minus of -30. This was the second straight game in which Green scored just six points.
Green has scored a combined 12 points on 2-16 shooting from the field during Golden State’s two-game losing streak, and his plus-minus during that stretch is an incredibly low -73.
Klay Thompson was the only Warrior who provided consistent help on the offensive end. Thompson finished the game with a team high 26 points on 9-17 shooting.
Both teams will travel to Oakland, California May 26 for Game 5 at Oracle Arena. A victory for the Thunder will give them their second birth to the NBA Finals in the past five years.