Warriors vs. Thunder: Breathtaking possibilities with Finals berth at stake
OAKLAND — Stephen Curry’s near half-court shot to win it in overtime at Oklahoma City in late February became one of the defining moments in his record-shattering MVP season.
Now, with four more victories against Kevin Durant and the Thunder in the Western Conference final, Curry and Co. will move one step closer to the Warriors’ ultimate goal: a repeat championship.
“It was a deep shot, and it was a huge shot — it was something I’ve never seen,” Durant recalled. “But it wasn’t like it was a shot that went across the whole world.”
No arguing Curry’s fame has gone global. He is fresh of becoming the NBA’s first unanimous MVP, but there’s more work to do.
Golden State was outrebounded 62-32 in that Feb. 27 win, and the Warriors can’t even believe they pulled off that one.
“I have no clue,” swingman Draymond Green said. “That’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. That’s not supposed to happen.”
Golden State won all three regular-season meetings with the Thunder on the way to its record 73-win season, but slowing down Russell Westbrook and Durant will be a chore after the Thunder beat San Antonio 4-2 in their Western Conference semifinal.
“They’re an explosive team. They’re clicking right now and found a good recipe to beat a tough Spurs team,” Curry said. “That says a lot about how they’re playing right now.”
The Warriors are optimistic Curry’s sprained right knee will stay healthy for the entire round when he best-of-seven series begins Monday night at Oracle Arena.
After being sidelined in the first round with an ankle injury and then missing the first three games against the Trail Blazers, Curry came off the bench and overcame a slow start to score 40 points in a 132-125 Game 4 overtime win at Portland last Monday night, including an NBA-record 17 in overtime. He then started and scored 29 points Wednesday night in the clincher at home.
“The last three years against them it’s been pretty entertaining games, most of the time going down to the wire, so you can only imagine what it will be like in the playoffs,” Curry said. “Every possession’s going to be key.”
Here are some things to watch for in the West final:
Golden State’s 7-foot-center, Andrew Bogut, returned to practice Sunday to test a strained muscle in his right leg between the hamstring and groin. The Warriors didn’t scrimmage, so Bogut was listed as questionable for the series opener. With no shootaround M Monday, coach Steve Kerr said he would go through a strenuous warmup before the game to determine his status.
Meanwhile, Curry said Sunday his knee hasn’t improved much the past week and it will just be about “pain tolerance” and he expects to be able to handle his regular load and production.
First, Klay Thompson chased James Harden around for five games and held him in check. Then Damian Lillard for five more. And now he draws Westbrook in another daunting defensive assignment.
Yet Thompson spent Thursday’s day off at a dog park — so, yes, his legs are still plenty fresh, thank you.