Russell Westbrook isn’t laughing anymore. Not after what Stephen Curry did to him in Game 7, as the Golden State Warriors sprinted past the Oklahoma City Thunder to complete the improbable comeback from a 3-1 series deficit with a 96-88 win to advance to the NBA Finals for the second consecutive year.
Curry torched Westbrook and the Thunder, going off for 36 points on 13-of-24 shooting, including 7-of-12 from deep. Meanwhile, Westbrook struggled from the field for the second straight game after laughing off Curry’s defensive skills following Game 5. Westbrook was 7-of-21 from the field as he put up 19 points in the loss. He scored only five points in the second half, and the Warriors — especially Curry — pounced.
Westbrook had outplayed Curry through the first four games of the series with relentless, aggressive play, but Curry ended with the upper-hand thanks to his own brand of relentlessness — he never let up, and it wore Westbrook and the Thunder down. Westbrook ran at the Warriors like a sprinter, but Curry was like a marathoner who threw in bursts of speed.
He picked up steam as the series went on. After averaging 24.3 points per game through the first four games of the series, he put up 32.7 per game over the final three. Westbrook, meanwhile, averaged 27.3 points through the first four games and 26 over the last three. Part of it was the Warriors finding holes in the Thunder defense, but part of Curry’s success was his continuous movement on the court — eventually, Westbrook couldn’t keep up.
Curry had some help from his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson — who had 21 points and made six threes — but it was the MVP’s night in Game 7. Draymond Green’s leadership is well-documented, but Curry’s on-court confidence makes the Warriors go, too. When his confidence is high, so is that of everyone on the Warriors. In a series where Green struggled to find his mojo, Curry had to bring the Warriors back from the verge of elimination.
Because he did, the Warriors are heading back to the NBA Finals again, with another chance to take down LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. There, he’ll face another star point guard in Kyrie Irving — who isn’t quite like Westbrook, but a terror in his own right. Irving will need to play the best defense of his life to slow Curry. If trying to keep up with Curry wore Westbrook down, Irving has his work cut out for him.
2 other things
The NBA Finals are going to be fun
Sure, it’s a rematch of last year’s title matchup, but this Cleveland team isn’t the same version the Warriors beat in six games last season. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing for the Warriors — the Cavaliers almost roughed their way past them without Kevin Love or Irving, but, like the Warriors, this year’s Cavaliers rely more on ball movement and three-point shooting. It’s likely to be a high-scoring series, with plenty of shots from deep. The Cavaliers have built a team to hang with the Warriors, and now they’ll have their chance.
Whether it’s the right type of team is another question. No team has successfully outshot the Warriors, but, then again, no team has worn them down with slow play and grinding, either.
Kevin Durant doesn’t want to talk about his future, but he should be proud of what he did
“We just lost 30 minutes ago,” Durant told reporters when asked about his impending free agency. “I haven’t even thought about it.”
Rightfully so. Durant played great in Game 7, single-handedly keeping the Thunder in the game down the stretch as Westbrook struggled. He had 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting — the only problem was that he didn’t take more shots. While he did struggle in the Game 6 Thunder collapse, Durant reaffirmed his status as one of the best players in the world in this year’s playoffs — mostly thanks to his improved play on the defensive end. He wreaked havoc on the Warriors for much of this series, changing shots with his long limbs and leading a Thunder defense that put the NBA’s best regular season team on the brink.
Whatever happens this summer, Durant proved just how valuable he’ll be to any team in 2017 and beyond.
Play of the night
These two layups took place within the final six seconds of the first half. It’s too bad this series had to end. It was a pleasure watching Westbrook and Curry go at one another.
4 fun things