Thunder vs Warriors: the lost pod

Feb 27, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) attempts a three point shot against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) attempts a three point shot against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

In the aftermath of the incredible game Saturday night featuring the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder, we recorded an episode of Thunderous Transmissions that didn’t get posted due to some technical difficulties. Instead of trying to re-record the podcast, I decided to put some of my thoughts on the game against the Warriors in word form.

As much as this may pain some Thunder fans, I’ve succumb to the idea that the Thunder aren’t winning the championship this season. As strange as that sounds with two of the top players in the league, the Thunder are in the same conference with the best two teams in the league, and possibly ever. The Warriors are on pace to break the Bulls’ record of 72-10, and yet, the Spurs have a better net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) than Golden State, which is a better indicator of a team’s success, historically.

Before delving too far into Golden State, I should address the game Oklahoma City played Saturday night.


While I haven’t been the biggest fan of Billy Donovan, his decision to start Kevin Durant on Draymond Green was one that almost helped the Thunder upset the Warriors. Golden State’s most fearsome set play is a simple pick-and-roll between Stephen Curry and Green. Durant is uniquely built to guard Curry, and while no player can effectively guard Curry, Durant does a commendable job when switched onto him. Theoretically, this should create a mismatch for Harrison Barnes, as he has a more traditional big man guarding him. Serge Ibaka isn’t your average big man, however.

The demise of Ibaka has been discussed at length (and arguments against it have been made), but he was fantastic against the Warriors in all facets of the game. Barnes didn’t have a good game, some of which has to be attributed to Ibaka, and the Warriors were held 4.7 points below their offensive efficiency on the season (114.4 on the season, 109.7 against the Thunder). On top of his stellar defense, Ibaka shot 7-12 from the field, scoring 15 points while playing over 40 minutes (second among Thunder players to Russell Westbrook‘s 42 minutes).

None of this would be possible without Steven Adams (or “Big Steve” if you follow along on Twitter) manning the middle. Adams has averaged 8.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in only 27.5 minutes over the past month, and had another impressive game Saturday night with 10 points and 9 rebounds in only 28 minutes. Adams does more than produce box score stats, however. Adams does the dirty stuff that nobody else on the team can do. Setting tough screens, executing a dribble handoff and getting position on rebounds against the opposition’s best rebounder are all on Adams’ list of skills, and all were on display Saturday night. With the future of some of the more recognizable players in Oklahoma City in doubt, it’s refreshing to see a core player under 23.

This is probably the most opportune time to bring up one of my favorites, Andre Roberson. In only his third game since returning from injury, Roberson was challenged with following the sharp-shooting Klay Thompson around. Thompson ended the game with good numbers (32 points on 12-23 shooting), but it was clear that Roberson was giving him headaches throughout the game (also, without tracking every individual play, I would assume Thompson did most of his damage when guarded by players other than Roberson).

But along with Roberson’s defense, he made some plays on offense, one of the biggest deterrents about his game. 10 points (4-9 shooting) and 5 rebounds doesn’t sound like much from a player that played 37 minutes, but it’s a lot from a Roberson considering the amount of energy he expends on defense.


No team in the NBA can beat the Warriors if they play even close to their potential maximum ability (outside of San Antonio); they have too many weapons for any team, Oklahoma City included, to account for. But in this specific game and in this specific scenario, the Warriors needed (and received) a little luck.

Let’s start with this sequence at the end of the 4th quarter:

Russ-KD Failed Lob 1
Russ-KD Failed Lob 1 /

How many times have you seen this exact player? A pindown screen is being set for KD but the defender is overplaying him. Russ throws the ball up with the defender not ready for the lob and Durant finishes the shot in the lane with ease. But Durant missed this time. Not only did he miss, but he effectively gift wrapped a 2-for-1 for Golden State, one which would begin with a Thompson 3 at the other end of this missed shot.

KD 3 vs GSW
KD 3 vs GSW /

After Thompson’s 3 came Durant’s big answer, the last shot he made in the game. This shot was supposed to be the dagger. A 4-point lead with 14.5 seconds left meant that the Thunder would have won this game over 97 percent of the time, per I guess Thunder fans are part of that “lucky” 3 percent.

Of course, there are the theatrics that came at the end of the game. After a breakdown that allowed Thompson a wide open layup, Durant received the ball on the in-bounds play. What player in the league would you rather have with the ball in his hands in that specific situation than Durant (Curry is the only acceptable answer)? But this time, which probably happens one out of 100 times, Durant throws the ball away, and it eventually ended in Andre Iguodala‘s hands.

(As unpopular as this opinion is, the foul called on Durant was properly called, in my opinion. The defender has to give the shooter room to land and Durant clearly didn’t.)

The rest of the game is history, marked by one of the most incredible game winners that I can remember (for those with weak stomachs, cover you eyes):

Steph Game Winner vs OKC
Steph Game Winner vs OKC /

With all that said, every historic team receives luck, which is why they are historic. Golden State is arguably the greatest team ever, and if they end up with the best record in history, it will be because they received a little luck. None of this is meant as any disrespect, only to show how close the Thunder were to beating a historically great team.

The Thunder participated in one of the greatest games this season and hung with a historic team, leaving nothing on the table. It doesn’t feel great to see the Thunder play near their max capacity and end with a loss. But doing so against a team as great as the Warriors is nothing to be upset about, only to appreciate the greatness in that moment. For Oklahoma City, this doesn’t signal the end of the season, only what the team could be come in the near future.

All stats are from, unless otherwise noted.