Knockout punches get all the press but it’s the body punches that do the most damage in a boxing match. In game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, Steph Curry scored a major knockout punch in the third quarter but it was the body blows in the second quarter that had the Thunder wobbly. After tying the game on a Kevin Durant alley-oop, the Warriors ran off eight straight points in the final 1:35 of the half that swung the momentum their way and set up the KO by the Curry-flurry.
It started on the possession immediately after Russell Westbrook connected with Durant on a lob that tied the game at 49. On that possession, Klay Thompson misses a jump shot, Ezeli beats the Thunder to the ball and tips it out to Iguodala. The ball finds Draymond Green who drives the lane but has the ball deflected, he chases it down and finds Ezeli for a layup. In hindsight the Thunder should have fouled Ezeli and forced him to convert at the line.
The next Thunder possession, Waiters drives the lane and misses a layup. Ezeli secures the rebound and they are off and running. The ball is outlet-ed to Curry who finds Thompson in transition and he hits a step back jumper to make it a 4-0 run.
The Thunder come down and turn the ball over when Westbrook tries to get the ball to Durant by lobbing the ball over Iguodala but the pass is too low and intercept. Again, this puts the Warriors in transition, the ball is kicked ahead to Curry who tries to feed Thompson on the opposite corner but Westbrook makes a good defensive play and deflects the ball. Unfortunately for the Thunder the ball is deflected right to a streaking Iguodala who converts on an amazing shot, so good have to get two looks at it to believe it. He misses the free throw and the run is now stretched to 6-0.
The Thunder secure the rebound with 39 seconds left in the half and Westbrook attempting to create a great two for one situation for the Thunder takes a horrible three pointer about four feet behind the line and misses the rim entirely. On a side note, teams often go for two for one but sometimes it’s better to just take the time to get a good shot, especially when they need to stop the bleeding. No matter how it’s looked at, a deep Westbrook three who is shooting 29.6% from there in his playoff career is not a good shot.
On the final Warriors offensive possession of the half, the Warriors run a side pick-and-roll with Curry and Iguodala. Curry finds Green, who hits a rolling Iguodala for an easy dunk. Cap off their 8-0 run with a perfect bang-bang play.
With seconds ticking down towards the end of the half, the Thunder run a pick-and-roll to get Durant a shot but the Warriors trap it and he kicks the ball across the court to Westbrook who instead of attacking settles for a contested three. After the play Westbrook loses his composure and is screaming at the ref for a foul call.
The tale of the tape in the last 1:35 of the half, the Warriors were five for six from the field, had four rebounds (one offensive) and two assists to the Thunder’s zero for three, one rebound, one turnover, and zero assists. The lead was pushed to eight, not an insurmountable lead at all but the momentum was definitely in the Warriors’ corner at that point.
Oklahoma City would stay afloat for a bit in the third quarter, cutting the lead to as little at seven but never really threatened the Warriors. Then the Curry-flurry happened, like a right hook to the jaw and put the Thunder on the mat for good. Just like in a prize fight, all of the press immediately went to the beautiful knockout punch but it was the bone crushing body blows in that late second quarter run that was the turning point in the Warriors game 2 win.
- Tale of Two Halves
- Zach Lowe ESPN article – The Thunder seem to be coming together at the perfect time
- Superman & Batman vs the Avengers in the NBA Playoffs
- Arturo Gatti v Micky Ward in November 2002. Photograph: Reuters