They were great going in and they’ll be great again tomorrow, or the next day. And likely in May and June when it matters. But for now, nothing rivals Saturday in Oklahoma City.
Saturday started as an off night. Think getting a flat on the way to a first date and then arriving to find you left your wallet in your other pants. The Warriors limped onto the court and looked every bit the part the weary traveler staring bleary-eyed and hypnotized at the baggage carousel before realizing they were at the wrong one. The result: a double-digit deficit going into the OKC visitor’s locker room where Draymond Green’s halftime rant could be heard from the press table.
In the third, Steph Curry rolled his left ankle. Klay Thompson wasn’t getting the ball enough. And nobody in navy blue t-shirt jerseys could grab a rebound. The Warriors made it respectable in the fourth, but on OKC’s side, superstar power forward Kevin Durant hit a three with four seconds to go to put the home team up by a pair.
And that’s where it should have ended.
The Warriors would be heading back into the locker room with their second loss of a not-quite-how-it-should-have-been-albeit-respectable 4-2 road trip. That’s what happens to basketball teams during an 82-game regular season. There are losses. There are lulls on the road. There are tantrums behind closed doors that spill out onto the court.
There are long plane rides home.
Good teams go through this. Great teams do as well. Teams for the ages seem to find a way around it. …Or at least steal one instead.
Teams for the ages take these games not as learning experiences, but as conversation starters
…Enter the heady defensive play of Thompson who deflected a pass in the lane with time in single digits, got it out to veteran’s veteran Andre Iguodala—who badly missed a floater from 18 feet but got fouled in the process. Regular time expired and OKC fans made way for the exits. The refs reviewed and ripped off the headsets to reward Iguodala with a trip to the line. He went on to hit a pair of the most clutch free throws in any league this season to send it into OT.
Fast forward four minutes and 54 seconds later, the Warriors were tied with the Thunder, 118-118. The invigorated Iguodala pulled down a missed jumper by Russell Westbrook and looked to his left and right. By the playbook, the Warriors call timeout right then to set up their offense, but coach Steve Kerr told them to run if they saw an opening. Iguodala outletted to Curry, who casually skipped up past midcourt. The Thunder, who was expecting to head back to the bench for a quick breather, didn’t set up. And Curry heaved the ball out from 32-plus feet.
Here it is:
In addition to the game winner, the shot broke Curry’s his own record for most 3-pointers in a season (286) and tied for most in a game (12) in NBA history.
This is where the post-game talk drifts to GOATS on high. NBA great Oscar Robinson got mad because nobody got a hand in Curry’s face. Isiah Thomas said nobody plays defense on the perimeter. Then again, LeBron, today’s greatest, simply tweeted for Curry to stop it man! Maybe Lebron knows that’s the only way Curry can be stopped.
There’s no argument that the game changes and defense changes and moods change and yesterday is something to reference even if today is special. But where would the stars emeritus suggest one start to defend Curry and co.? On the bench during intros? Under the hoop at warmups? At the hotel as they’re showering and brushing their teeth? Perhaps as they’re pulling out of the garage?
There’s this other thing too. Sometimes you just gotta love being courtside, or on the court, to see greatness unfold. Postgame OKC players looked depleted and predictably hung their heads on exit. But when the cameras panned back courtside, you could almost feel the smiles cross their face as they made their way down the tunnel.
Win or lose, they had just witnessed a classic…from a classic team.