OAKLAND, Calif.—Outside his locker-room, first-year Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan received a round of handshakes and hugs for pulling off something no other team has this post-season.
The Thunder beat the defending champs at Oracle Arena.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Oklahoma City dazzled in the fourth quarter the way the Warriors have done so many times during their record-setting season—rallying from 14 points down for a 108-102 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference final last night.
“You have to have a mindset coming into these kinds of venues,” Donovan said.
“Our guys, I think they understand what they’re walking into.
“You don’t just walk in here say, ‘Oh, everything’s going to be OK,’” he stressed. “You have to have a mindset to understand.
“The first thing is to embrace the fact it’s going to be hard.”
Durant scored 26 points and made a key 17-foot jumper with 30.7 seconds left while Westbrook scored 24 of his 27 points in the second half.
Westbrook also had 12 assists and seven steals in the opener of the Thunder’s fourth conference final in six years.
“We just stayed with it on the defensive end and when we got the shots late in the game, we were able to focus in and knock them down,” Durant noted.
“We’re just a resilient group and keep fighting ’til the end.”
Game 2 goes tomorrow night at Oracle Arena.
If this one was any kind of preview of what is coming, this should be a dandy of a series between the NBA’s highest-scoring teams during the regular season.
“We’ve just got to compete,” Westbrook said.
“It’s going to be a tough game. It’s a tough building,” he noted.
MVP Stephen Curry had 26 points and a playoff career-high 10 rebounds, but the Warriors missed too many shots down the stretch.
The Warriors’ 42 second-half points, including 14 in the fourth, both were lows for this post-season.
“We got rushed and tried to go for the home-run plays. Sometimes it works,” Curry noted.
“Defensively we were getting enough stops and rebounds.
“We got out of character a little bit,” he added. “It’s something we’ll learn from going forward.”
With his team down 105-102, Steve Kerr begged for a travelling call on Westbrook at mid-court with 17.2 seconds left, with the NBA Coach of the Year signalling with his arms before going into a squat.
Oklahoma City got a time-out instead. Westbrook later made one free throw with 14.5 seconds to go.
“I do think we lost our poise a little bit,” Kerr admitted.
“And that had a lot to do with the quick shots.”