Basketball: Thunder on a roll against Warriors

Andrew Bogut (right) of the Golden State Warriors tries to block a shot by Russell Westbrook during the 105-133 loss to Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday.
Andrew Bogut (right) of the Golden State Warriors tries to block a shot by Russell Westbrook during the 105-133 loss to Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Decisive victory gives Oklahoma City 2-1 lead as momentum deserts defending champions

OKLAHOMA CITY • Blowouts have not been uncommon in these National Basketball Association play-offs.

But when a record-setting 73-victory team lose the way the Golden State Warriors did at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday, it must be asked if the Oklahoma City Thunder's 133-105 trouncing of the defending champions in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals might psychologically be worth more than one win.

At the very least, the Warriors know how the San Antonio Spurs felt by the conclusion of their second-round series, sensing that a transformative fulfilment of potential at the season's most propitious stage has seized hold of the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook-led Thunder.

The Warriors twice faced a 1-2 deficit last season, in the second round against Memphis and in the Finals against Cleveland. But the Thunder appear to be a growing threat as they head into Game 4.

Durant and Westbrook were dominant, scoring 33 and 30 points, with Westbrook adding 12 assists and eight rebounds. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 24 points and Klay Thompson added 18.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, lamenting his team's impatience on offence, said: "Bad shots, quick shots - that's death here."

Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he "tried some different things" in the pick-and-roll game, resulting in better court spacing.

A more decisive Durant set the tone, not holding onto the ball when confronted by a crowd of defenders but taking every opportunity to make a strong offensive move before the Warriors could attack him.

He had 11 of the Thunder's first 25 points, and when Serge Ibaka made a three-pointer from the right corner, the cold-shooting Warriors found themselves in a 15-28 hole.

They pulled even at 38-38 on a three-pointer by Harrison Barnes early in the second quarter.

The rest of the quarter, however, was a stunning display by the Thunder coupled with the Warriors losing their composure.

Draymond Green picked up a flagrant-1 foul - while hacked in the act of shooting - with 5min 57sec left in the half by flailing a leg between those of Steven Adams.

The play further ignited the Thunder, who immediately went on a 25-4 run to finish the half.

Durant's first-half numbers underscored his renewed sense of unbridled aggression: 23 points on 6-for-10 shooting, 10 made free throws in as many attempts (or six more attempts than the Warriors), six rebounds and one turnover.

He said: "We were able to catch the ball, drive, kick it out, get our bodies moving."

Explosive as the Warriors can be, the game felt over by half-time with the Thunder leading 72-47.

The Warriors must now convince themselves, as Kerr said, that losing by "one point or 30," it's all the same.

Even if the Thunder continue to press their case as a team, that is all about change.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2016, with the headline 'Thunder on a roll against Warriors'. Print Edition | Subscribe