OKLAHOMA CITY -- With an incredible 108-101 comeback victory on the road Saturday night, the Golden State Warriors clawed their way out of the grave to force a Game 7. It was a game the Oklahoma City Thunder controlled until the Warriors slowly, relentlessly turned what looked like an inexorable tide. It was probably the best offensive performance of Klay Thompson's life, maybe the best defensive performance of Andre Iguodala's life, capped by a dagger from one Stephen Curry.
Chesapeake Energy Arena has a way of galvanizing an already energetic Thunder team. Combined, they're a force of nature, an onslaught of noise and speed. So the Warriors were just trying to survive, by hook or by crook. They began the game by warming up on the opposite basket from Games 3 and 4. According to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, it was to help their coaches communicate with the offense in the second half. It also seemed like the kind of gambit one just tries, in hopes that something might change fate. Or, as Kerr sarcastically put it in pregame: "It's going to change everything."
What didn't change for Golden State was a second quarter that started disastrously. After keeping things close during an offensively stagnant first stanza (in which Curry scored nary a point), Kerr rested his Big 3 for a spell. Kevin Durant promptly kicked off a Thunder run that built to a 13-point advantage. The exclamatory point of that run was a vicious, thrown dunk from Steven Adams over the nemesis of his lower waist, Draymond Green.
What did change this time was that Golden State managed to stave off an early second-quarter death. Klay Thompson sank back-to-back 3-pointers and generally appeared more composed than his hyped teammates. The Warriors lived, but for how long? It was 53-48 Thunder at the half.
Then, a surprise. The Warriors started the second half with Iguodala in for Harrison Barnes and quickly seized a lead they would cede just as quick. Curry awoke in the period, before Golden State entered a brief ice age from the field.
For so much of this game, Thompson was his team's saving grace, nailing a playoff record 11 3-pointers and amassing 41 points. It wasn't just the fact of the production, but the way it was happening. He was flinging the ball from all over, with no space and less conscience. Still, the fourth quarter was looking dire for the Warriors. Oklahoma City got into the penalty early at a point when Golden State had no team fouls. And yet, the Warriors held the fort, despite being down seven with less than half a quarter to play.
Not enough can be said of Iguodala's defense on Durant. He leaned into the task, tilting and stretching his body into space like a free climber. The longer the game went, the more energy he seemed to summon. On the face of it, holding Durant to 29 points doesn't seem like a great effort. But consider Durant's 31 shots and how the Thunder were in the penalty for most of the fourth.
Two big transition 3-pointers helped the Warriors get where they needed to be. There was Curry to tie it on a pitch back from Barnes with 2:48 left. Then, off a Westbrook turnover, with 1:35 remaining, Thompson grabbed a 3-point advantage with a long strike on the move. The closing dagger came from Curry, who has struggled at points when big men have switched onto him this series. This time, with Serge Ibaka trained on his every move, Curry dribbled past, and flung a floater high off glass.
All is not won yet for Golden State, but the Warriors live. They live, en route to friendly confines, to attempt finishing off the rare comeback from down 3-1. They went small against the massive Thunder, in a hostile environment, and escaped to tell the tale. The 73-win season remains as the story continues.