Thunder strike first blow

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (centre) drives to the basket as Warriors forward Draymond Green attempts to defend.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (centre) drives to the basket as Warriors forward Draymond Green attempts to defend.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Westbrook helps Oklahoma City seal a crucial road win with game-high 27 points

OAKLAND (California) • Russell Westbrook inspired a second-half comeback as the Oklahoma City Thunder stunned the Golden State Warriors 108-102 in the opening game of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference Finals on Monday.

The point guard scored 27 points as the Thunder overturned a 47-60 half-time deficit to inflict the Warriors' first home defeat of this play-offs.

He also chipped in with 12 assists and six rebounds while team-mate Kevin Durant finished with 26 points as the visitors silenced the the Oracle Arena crowd.

"It's a game of two halves, man," Westbrook said. "We're a great team. We didn't play our best game but we came out with a win."

He played a pivotal role in defence, time and again using his blistering speed to pounce on stray passes by the Warriors.

"He's probably the quickest guard in the league," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Westbrook.

"I thought when we lost our aggressiveness and our momentum offensively in the second half, a lot of that had to do with his speed and aggressiveness."

Golden State looked to be sprinting to a one-sided victory after taking a commanding lead early in the first half, converting a series of Oklahoma City turnovers into points.

Stephen Curry - who finished with 26 points - ended the half with a long-range three-pointer to give the Warriors a 13-point lead.

However, the Thunder emerged after the interval a different side, with Westbrook leading the charge to slash the Warriors' advantage with a virtuoso third-quarter performance.

He piled up 19 points in that period to help put the Thunder within three points of the Warriors at 85-88 heading into the fourth.

With their defence neutralising the threat posed by Curry, it was left to Durant and Westbrook to take control. The Thunder opened up a 101-93 lead in the final few minutes but the Warriors clawed their way back to within one with seven unanswered points.

The Thunder regrouped and received a fortunate call when Westbrook avoided being called for travelling at 105-102 with 17 seconds remaining, to the Warriors' disgust.

Kerr bemoaned a loss of composure in the final quarter, when the Warriors made only one of 10 three-pointers.

"There were a lot of quick shots, way too many quick shots," he said.

"Five minutes left in the game and we're down four points or whatever, and we were acting like we had 20 seconds left."

Thunder head coach Billy Donovan praised his side's problem-solving abilities.

"I thought in the second half we did a much better job, took much better care of the basketball which enabled us to get back in transition and play better defence," he said.



Game 2: Oklahoma City v Golden State

StarHub Ch202, tomorrow, 9am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Thunder strike first blow'. Print Edition | Subscribe