OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder walked into Game 3 against the Golden State Warriors with plenty of unknowns. How would they respond to being beaten by 27 in Game 2? How would they adjust with three days off? How would they play on their home floor as the series moved to OKC?
The answers were emphatic and evidenced by this: Thunder 133, Warriors 105.
The Warriors and Thunder went back and forth, as expected, for the first 18 minutes. But if there was a moment to pinpoint when Game 3 changed, it would have to be midway through the second quarter when Draymond Green caught Steven Adams — for a second straight game — below the belt. Green was assessed a flagrant foul 1, but the Thunder roared to halftime on a 24-5 run following the incident.
Because they’re the Warriors, despite a 25-point halftime lead, the game felt far from over. However, the Thunder sprinted to another 45 points in the third quarter, building their biggest lead of 41 — and the Warriors’ biggest deficit of the season. Kevin Durant was sensational with 33 points on 10-of-15 shooting, and only one turnover, an area that was an issue for him in Game 2. Russell Westbrook was equally as spectacular, with 30 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists.
But where the Thunder instantly become lethal is when secondary scoring shows up. Dion Waiters was a significant spark, scoring 13 in 34 minutes. Andre Roberson hit 3-of-5 from 3-point range and finished with 13. Serge Ibaka added 14 and eight rebounds. The Thunder are special on principle because they have two of the top five or six players in the world. But they can go ultra beam when the rest of the roster rounds out and produces.
The Thunder left Oakland with the split they wanted, but there was some confidence shaken, at least to the view of outsiders, that the Warriors’ had re-established control with Game 2. But the Thunder were steadfast and confident, taking their three days off to dial up some adjustments and focus on areas of improvement. Billy Donovan altered his substitution pattern, going with Waiters for Adams with his first sub for an early look of small ball. Donovan essentially stared the Warriors’ “death lineup” in the face and dared Steve Kerr to play it. Per ESPN Stats & Info, The Thunder outscored the Warriors by 34 and shot 71.4 percent when they went small with Ibaka as the lone big. The Warriors shot just 33.3 percent against those lineups.
The other focus was ball movement and spacing, primarily for the starting five. Westbrook set the tone early, racking up five first-quarter assists as the Thunder had nine. The ball zipped from side to side much better than it did in Game 2, and it freed Durant to operate outside of the shackles of double and triple-teams.
It sets the stage for a showdown on Tuesday in Game 4. The Warriors are now the ones back to the drawing board, and the Thunder riding the wave.