By Kevin Green
OKLAHOMA CITY – Twelve minutes.
That is how far away the Thunder were from making their second NBA Finals in four years.
With an eight-point lead and the raucous Oklahoma City crowd behind them, the Thunder’s victory seemed all but guaranteed.
However, Golden State didn’t get to 73 wins by lying down when things don’t go its way.
Led by Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, the Warriors outscored the Thunder 19-5 in the final five minutes to lead Golden State to a 108-101 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City on Saturday night.
“That really wasn’t – hasn’t been us in the last month and a half,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought we got a little stagnant coming down the stretch.”
Oklahoma City’s inability to capitalize on big leads was one major difference between Game 6 and its two previous home games.
Although the Thunder led for most of the game, they were never able to fully separate to get a comfortable lead. The Warriors had an answer for every Oklahoma City run.
In games three and four, the Thunder built a double-digit lead in the second quarter on their way to blowout wins.
Game 6 looked to be following a similar narrative, with Oklahoma City accumulating a 13-point lead with 7:20 left in the first half, but Golden State fought back, cutting the lead to five, 53-48, at halftime.
The Warriors remained within striking distance for the rest of the game, never allowing the Thunder to lead by more than 10 points again.
Klay Thompson had a lot to do with that.
Thompson shot unlike anyone ever has in the postseason, hitting 11 3-pointers, five in the fourth quarter, to finish with 41 points.
Nineteen of Thompson’s points came in the fourth quarter.
“Klay Thompson was ridiculous,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “I mean, the shooting was some of the most incredible shooting you’ll ever see.”
Thompson said Stephen Curry encouraged him to keep shooting.
“Steph told me before I went out in the fourth, ‘This is your time,’” Thompson said. “’You know, put on a show out there and have fun.’ I took those words to heart, and I just tried to be aggressive.”
The MVP only scored three times in the fourth, but those shots were arguably the biggest of the game.
Curry hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 99 with 2:47 remaining, and his 8-foot jump shot with 14 seconds left put the Thunder out of reach for good at 106-101.
“I thought we did a good job of contesting 3s,” Kevin Durant said. “Thompson had some tough ones over hands. Curry had some tough ones over hands, so that’s what they do.”
Oklahoma City’s dynamic duo, Durant and Russell Westbrook, wasn’t as fortunate, shooting a combined 1-of-13 from three.
Durant finished with 29 points on 10-of-31 shooting and seven rebounds, and Westbrook added with 28 points on 10-of-27 shooting with 11 assists and nine rebounds.
Less than a week ago, the Thunder were one game away from the NBA Finals, leading the defending champions 3-1.
Fast forward a few days and two games, Oklahoma City remains one game away, only now there is no two-game cushion. The Warriors are also one game away.
Durant said the Thunder’s morale is still high despite the tough loss.
“We’ve got another game to play,” Durant said. “We’re excited about that. We get another opportunity, and we can’t hang our heads. We’ve got another game to play, so it’s pretty high right now.”
Which team will advance to face the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Game 7 is on Monday at 8 PM on TNT at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.