Image courtesy of Erik Drost's Flickr page - Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrost88/18712418510/in/photolist-uvy36m-uKQ6xG-tRgUTP-uvtpVm-uKQmv7-uvGFwB-uMFFeG-uNpE1e-tBehBy-uN3P3D-tR2Qho-HUSfr-4Taf5q-uvASzv-7vAzf2-qHUK2k-r52g6V-6K6Fki-bgddQ6-4G4nGd-r4UoZy-7NjrkD-9nssXS-rmt3kn-JgQiv-uoEiQf-djFciv-rmokYq-r4Ujq3-7hGokn-4iSMB3-bgdChx-47g67u-qKt9Fn-qKuV8z-qKt9yP-qKt9Ea-3pYanc-4C12US-uvyAju-uvyCCs-buWvMB-3q3GXA-eedDRY-7NopXJ-6r3FD-6r3uV-3pYaeB-dZTukn-dZTkBK
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The Golden State Warriors looked spent and ready to pack it in through the first four games of this series. They had lost Game 1 at home, although they did score a decisive Game 2 victory.
But then, in Games 3 and 4 in OKC, Golden State did something that they had not done all season long: lose two games in a row.
For the first time in either of the last two seasons, the Warriors had their backs pressed against the wall so much, they could feel the stucco. Over 200 teams in NBA history have found themselves down 3-1 in a series, and only nine of those teams fought their way back to win the series.
To say those are long odds would be an understatement.
Luckily, they had a home game for Game 5, and they took full advantage of the opportunity to get out of OKC and bring the series back to the Bay area, using that to earn a nice, solid victory, to bring this series to 3-2. The Warriors managed to avoid elimination in that one, but the next game would be a bit tougher, as they had to go back on the road now.
Still, OKC would be hosting Game 6, and that would mean that this one would be infinitely tougher for the Golden State Warriors to escape from.
Indeed, the Thunder were winning with five minutes left, and enjoyed a fairly comfortable seven point lead, when the Warriors did their thing and caught fire. Suddenly, all of those missed shots earlier in the series, which were so uncharacteristic of this team in particular, could be forgotten. Suddenly, these were the same Warriors that dominated the NBA to win the crown last year, and to dominate the league as they enjoyed a record winning season at 73-9 this year.
Klay Thompson hit a record 11 3-pointers last night, and a huge chunk of them came in the clutch, during those final five minutes. Overall, he enjoyed a 41-point night, and was instrumental in helping to lift the Warriors over OKC. On top of it, he said that he could have had more, as there were a couple of wide open shots that he missed. Still, hitting 11 three-points is a pretty remarkable achievement.
He kept Golden State in the game when they were teetering on the edge, losing by double digits, by being the only Warrior to hit clutch shots at that point. In the game's final minutes, he was joined by superstar Stephen Curry, who finally started hitting his shots, as well, during those final few minutes. That included some truly dagger in the heart kind of shots to essentially ice a game for Golden State that had seemed to belong to OKC just a few short minutes ago.
Curry scored 29 points overall as well, and played very well down the stretch, although this was Klay Thompson's night.
It needs to be said that that was not the whole story, either. Golden State's defense toughened up in a big way, forcing turnovers, although some of those turnovers could have been a product of suddenly sloppy play by OKC players, who seemed to show signs of tightening up.
Still, all in all, it was a familiar story, after an early part of the series that suddenly felt unfamiliar. While Golden State had struggled and looked uncharacteristically vulnerable through Game 4, trailing 3 games to 1, the Warriors now have taken two in a row, and have forced a decisive Game 7 on their home floor, at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Now, perhaps this would be a good time to remind everyone of just how dominant home teams have tended to be in Game 7's throughout history, although the same could be said just days ago for teams holding series leads of 3-1. So, it is difficult to say for sure what is going to happen, and that means, simply, we'll just have to tune in.
If I had to put money on it, I would say that, most likely, the Golden State Warriors take Game 7 at home, and move on to meet the Cleveland Cavaliers again in the NBA Finals.