Just ahead of Game 5 in Oakland, a Warriors team employee was musing about the situation Golden State was in, trailing, 3-1, in the Western Conference finals and needing to win the remaining three games of the series to keep their title defense alive. “You know,” he said, “we have managed to win three games in a row a few times this year.”
Two down. And Game 5, the first, came much easier than the second. But the Warriors prevailed 108-101 Saturday night to take Game 6 in Oklahoma City, where they trailed for most of the night and hadn't won in two earlier games this season. The third could come Monday, when Oklahoma City will get one last chance to eliminate Golden State. The Thunder will have to do it at Oracle Arena in Oakland, where the Warriors have lost only three times in 50 games this season — including to the Thunder in Game 1 of this series.
MORE: 12 most embarrassing NBA playoff chokes ever
The Warriors kept their magical season — which started with a record-setting 24-0 mark and wound up with another record, 73 wins — alive, thanks in large part to an incredible fourth-quarter shooting display by Klay Thompson. The All-NBA third-teamer (with teammates represented on the first and second teams) helped flip an eight-point Thunder final-period lead to an eventual victory by going 6-for-9 from the field and 5-for-6 from the 3-point line, pushing his total to 41 for the game and 19 for the fourth quarter.
Thompson was the hero here. But the Warriors got themselves into position to win this game by doing two things they were unable to accomplish in their previous two road games in Oklahoma City: avoiding a second-quarter meltdown and playing wire-to-wire defense. They always have the scorers to win a tight game in the late stages. On the road in this series, though, they had not given those scorers a chance to win a game, because they were through by halftime.
The second-quarter danger zone presented itself quickly for Golden State. After coming out of a sloppy first quarter trailing just 23-20, the Warriors found themselves on the unhappy end of a 6-0 run to start the quarter, and later falling behind, 41-28 with 4:44 to go in the half. This was reminiscent of Games 3 and 4, in which the Warriors panicked in the face of Thunder offensive pressure and wound up facing blowout deficits by halftime, by 25 points in Game 3 and 21 in Game 4.
MORE: Warriors shouldn't turn to these excuses if they do lose
On Saturday, though, the Warriors showed poise late in the second, going on a 12-3 run thanks to three 3-pointers from Thompson and three free throws by Curry. That set up the Warriors to go into the half in much better shape than their previous OKC outings, down only 53-48. It was a manageable deficit, and the Warriors pulled back into the lead during the third quarter.
The Warriors’ defense should not be overlooked, either. Both Thunder stars, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, were relentless in this game, but Golden State wore the two down by forcing them into uncomfortable positions—pushing Westbrook to the baseline and into Andrew Bogut as much as possible on drives and getting Durant to take midrange 2-pointers and uncomfortable 3s.
Westbrook and Durant scored 57 points together, and combined to go 20-for-58 from the field. They were just 1-for-13 from the 3-point line. Where the Warriors got hammered on the free-throw line in the previous two games at Oklahoma City — the Thunder were 33-for-37 in Game 3 and 31-for-40 in Game 4 — the Thunder were only 22-for-32 from the line in Game 6.
MORE: 10 NBA playoff injuries that killed title dreams
And OKC’s supporting cast was mostly silent. In all, the Thunder shot just 42.2 percent from the field and were 3-for-23 from the 3-point line.
That was the Warriors’ defense keeping things clo