By Kevin Green
OKLAHOMA CITY – Draymond Green kicked Oklahoma City into gear.
It may be a cliché, but it took on a literal meaning for Oklahoma City in its 133-105 win over Golden State in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday night.
Halfway through the second quarter with the Thunder holding an eight-point lead, Green kicked Steven Adams in the groin following a shot attempt, causing an outrage among the players and fans.
As the officials reviewed to play to determine whether Green should be penalized for the kick, “Kick him out!” began blaring throughout the arena.
“I followed through on a shot,” Green said. “I’m not trying to kick somebody in the midsection. Somebody wants to have kids someday. I’m not trying to end that on the basketball court.”
Russell Westbrook saw things differently.
“Honestly, I think it’s intentional,” Russell Westbrook said. “That’s two times in the last two games. I don’t think you can keep kicking somebody in their private areas, but he probably says he didn’t do it on purpose, but it looks intentional to me.”
Green was charged with a flagrant one foul, and although he was not ejected, the incident appeared to be a blessing in disguise for Oklahoma City.
The Thunder went on a 24-7 run (32-7 counting an 8-0 run prior to the kick) to take a 72-47 lead at halftime, and they continued their hot streak in the third quarter, scoring 45 points and increasing their advantage to 41 at one point.
Green wasn’t as fortunate after the incident.
Green had arguably one of the worst games of his career, shooting only 11 percent from the floor for six points to go along with a minus-43 rating while on the court.
However, the kicking incident is far from being forgotten.
The NBA will most likely review the play, and if it determines the kick was an attempt to injury Adams, he could be suspended for Game 4, which would be detrimental to Golden State’s chances to even the series on Tuesday night.
Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr said he thinks Green won’t be suspended, and the flagrant foul will be rescinded.
“Stuff like that happens all the time,” Kerr said. “There’s contact and people’s arms and legs are flailing. If they think it’s on purpose, play the game. Westbrook kicks out his legs on ever three, and there’s contact.”
Of course, Green’s foul was not the only reason the Thunder tied their franchise record for most points scored in a playoff game.
Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 33 points, and Westbrook barely missed recording a triple-double with 30 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.
“We got some opportunities to get stops and get out in transition,” Westbrook said. “We had an opportunity to show our athleticism and get easy buckets.”
Perhaps the most impressive feat for the Thunder was their ability to guard the 3-point line. Stephen Curry was held to 3-11 from deep, and Klay Thompson was 2-8 from the same distance.
Andre Roberson, who isn’t known for his shooting ability, outperformed the Splash Bros., shooting 3-5 from beyond the arc. He finished with 13 points.
“We took a lot of quick shots that didn’t go in,” Curry said. “It gave them that advantage in transition, and we just didn’t handle their runs very well because of that.”
Serge Ibaka and Dion Waiters also had an impact on the game, combining for 27 points. Oklahoma City will need those three guys to continue contributing the way they have been in this series to stay ahead of a loaded Golden State team.
The Thunder are now in position to take a 3-1 series lead over one of the best teams in NBA history, but it won’t be an easy task.
The Warriors have not lost back-to-back games all season, and they proved last season they are capable of coming from behind to win a series after defeating Memphis and Cleveland despite trailing 2-1 to both teams.
“Both times we got blown out in Game 3, and we responded well, so we have that memory,” Kerr said. “I’m confident we’re going to come out and play a really good game in Game 4, and we’ll see what happens.”