Thunder vs. Warriors: A Tale of Two Halves

May 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) reacts after an injury against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter in game two of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
May 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) reacts after an injury against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter in game two of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

After winning three consecutive games on the road, the Oklahoma City Thunder proved it still has detrimental flaws by falling to the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals Wednesday night.

Let’s be honest, Thunder fans. We knew this was coming. The Warriors basically skated through the playoffs up to this point, and Game 1 served as their reminder that they actually have to play basketball to make a repeat showing in the Finals. The Thunder are a team who have several weapons in their arsenal—youth, hunger, and a starting lineup that consists of two of the top players in the league. The Warriors felt this wake-up call, and relit their fire.

The first 23 minutes looked promising. Thunder fans across the world (looking at you, NZ) knocked on wood as they declared what looked like a repeat of Game 1. Watching Kevin Durant light up the floor in the first half made us all think this wasn’t just a win—it was also going to be a career night for KD.

Then, it all changed.

It started around the 7-minute mark of the third quarter, and it continued until the final buzzer. Fouls, including a technical call against Durant, 3-pointers, rebounds…the Warriors were unstoppable as the Thunder crumbled under pressure.

Even Coach Donovan knew it was over when he sat his stars. He officially threw in the towel by putting Kyle Singler on the floor.

Oklahoma City is famous for falling apart in the fourth. In fact, they’ve managed to lose more than a dozen games when leading at the start of the fourth quarter. Granted, it’s hard to compete with someone who comes out and scores 15 points in under two minutes, which is exactly what Stephen “Flurry” Curry did. Still, there are several factors that contributed to the fall-out of Game 2.

Turnovers, turnovers.
In Game 1, the Thunder had 11 turnovers, only a handful of which occurred during the second half. They won the battle in that game, forcing 14 Warriors turnovers.

“Our turnovers were probably a few too many.” – Billy Donovan

In Game 2, the script was flipped. OKC had 15 turnovers, limiting Golden State to 12.

The Warriors are known for their fastbreak offense, and they are no strangers when it comes to profiting from opponents’ mistakes. The composure the Thunder had in Game 1 went out the window.

Of the 15 times OKC turned over the ball Wednesday night, Durant alone contributed eight of them.

In a post-game interview, Durant blamed his performance on the fact that Golden State put three guys against him, which caused him to turnover the ball more often. In true Durant fashion, he shared his future game plan for avoiding turnovers when triple-teamed:

“Maybe I just gotta shoot over three people.”

Coach Donovan’s post-game interview pretty much summed it up:

“Our turnovers were probably a few too many.”


Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

Giving up points.
In the NBA playoffs, free throw shots should be second nature. They should be I-can-do-this-in-my-sleep shots. Yes, the pressure of the world’s stage when you’re only seven wins away from a national championship title can be a lot to handle. But, giving up points may mean a loss in a pivotal game.

Game 2 wasn’t close enough to factor in the five points the Thunder lost from failed free throws, but it’s still something to consider when it comes to really tight games. In the event a team loses by one point, that free throw could have been a game-saver.

While the Thunder maintained a 73.7% free throw percentage and the Warriors fell short with 67.9%, the fact that both Dion Waiters and Kyle Singler missed their four combined attempts is alarming. Everyone from Golden State at least got one of their attempts.

Incidentally, Waiters missed both of his free throws in Game 1 while, again, every Warrior dropped at least one of their bucket attempts.

Oklahoma City is the best rebounding team in the league. They average 56.6 rebounds per game, which should be their pocket ace when it comes to these high-stakes showdowns. That was the case in Game 1, when the Thunder collected 52 rebounds to the Warriors’ 44.

Like the turnover narrative, Game 2’s rebounding statistics also flipped. The best rebounding team in the NBA was limited to 36 rebounds, while Golden State pocketed 44.

Steven Adams, while taking a beating on the court, captured 10 of OKC’s rebounds, the highest number of rebounds for any player on the floor. Still, it wasn’t enough. It will never be enough, no matter how stellar of a performer Adams is, if he’s the only one consistently working the backboard.

More from Thunderous Intentions

Oklahoma City heads home Sunday night for Game 3 of the series. As we now know for sure, it won’t be easy. Yes, being at home does present an advantage for the Thunder (Forbes recently ranked Oklahoma City fans as number two in the league), but it isn’t a guaranteed win.

“We’re going home and we can’t relax,” Durant said in a post-game interview. “We’ve gotta come out here and play.”

Don’t forget—the Thunder had an embarrassing 32-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Western semifinals a couple of weeks ago, and bounced back to win the series. Could this 27-point loss be a similar showing?

We’ll find out on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Chesapeake Arena.