It’s do or die for the second straight game for the Golden State Warriors. They'll try to deny the Oklahoma City Thunder a shot at the NBA Finals and reignite what was expected to be dominant postseason run in Saturday night’s Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But Golden State may find it difficult to stave off elimination a second time and force a Game 7 against a Thunder squad that’s pretty efficient at bumping off postseason opponents. It also doesn’t help that Golden State returns to an arena where they suffered 28 and 24-point losses in Games 3 and 4.
The Warriors, true to the words of two-time MVP Stephen Curry, forward Draymond Green, and head coach Steve Kerr, managed to trim Oklahoma City’s series lead to 3-2 in Game 5’s 120-111 victory at the Oracle.
The Thunder missed their first opportunity to close out the 73-win Warriors, a rare occurrence for Oklahoma City. Since 2011 the Thunder have gone 11-5 when given the chance to eliminate an opponent from the playoffs, most recently knocking off San Antonio the first chance they got in the previous round.
Curry fired off 31 points and dropped six assists while Green looked far sharper with 11 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks after poor overall play in the previous two games of the series that put the Warriors on the brink of elimination.
Klay Thompson added 27 points, while center Andrew Bogut played some huge minutes with 15 points and 14 rebounds and big man Marreese Speights came off the bench for 14 points to combat a Thunder defense that was owning the series with its length and size.
"We just did what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to win at home," Curry said after the game. "We know what we still have to do going forward. ... We knew if we didn't win we were going home. There's no other motivation you need."
But Golden State couldn’t quite put Oklahoma City away until the waning seconds of the fourth quarter. The Thunder kept things close behind forward Kevin Durant’s game-high 40 points and point guard Russell Westbrook’s 31 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists with five steals.
Even though Durant went 3-for-11 from deep, as a team the Thunder also outgunned the sharpshooting Warriors with 13 threes compared to nine.
Game 5 showed how evenly matched these two sides are when they are playing well, and trips to the free throw line certainly made a difference. Golden State went to the line 34 times and hit 31, compared to the Thunder’s 20-for-24 night.
“I can only comment about us,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan told The Oklahoman. “We've always been a team that's gotten to the free-throw line at a very, very high rate over the regular season. But certainly the discrepancy tonight for free throws, for whatever reason, that was really, to me, the difference in the game.”
The Thunder and Warriors both know who they will face in the finals after the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors in the sixth game of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night.
Should Golden State prove successful and force a final Game 7, which is scheduled for Monday, and no matter who wins the finals will start on Thursday, June 2. Cleveland would host the first two games if Oklahoma City wins the series, while a Warriors series victory shifts the finals to the Bay Area for Games 1 and 2.
Tipoff: 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Live Stream: TNT Overtime
Betting Odds: OKC -2.5 points
Over/Under: 220 points
Predicted Score: Oklahoma City over Golden State, 112-109