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.”