The Warriors came out to play Thursday night and so did Stephen Curry. The two-time MVP made sure the Warriors’ record-setting season didn’t end prematurely on their homecourt.
Curry made sure there will be a Game 6 in the NBA Western Conference finals. He saved his best performance of the series for Game 5, leading the defending champions to a 120-111 win that trimmed Oklahoma City’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-2.
After hitting a nifty reverse layup late in the fourth quarter to put the Warriors up 10 with about a minute to go, Curry turned to the crowd and shouted, “We ain’t going home. We’re not going home.”
The Warriors are going to Oklahoma City now. The champs are still alive, in large part due to Curry’s 31-point, eight-assist, seven-rebound and five-steal night. He owned the fourth quarter, making plays at both ends to keep the charging Thunder at bay.
Kevin Durant scored 40 points and Russell Westbrook 31, but they combined to miss 36 of their 59 shot attempts. Durant had a chance to cut the deficit to three with about 35 seconds left but misfired. A few more makes of some wide-open looks by the Thunder’s best players and Curry and the Warriors might be staying home.
But they earned a trip back to Oklahoma City. If the Warriors, who won 73 games in the regular season, are going to extend this series to a Game 7 at Oracle Arena, Curry will have to play even better Saturday night in what should be a very loud and raucous environment.
The Thunder has been dominant at home in the playoffs, winning its last four games – against the Spurs and Warriors – by 70 points combined. Their wins in Games 3 and 4 over Golden State were by 28 and 24, respectively.
“It’ll take all of our IQ, all of our gamesmanship and just 48 great minutes to get a win down there considering how the way the last two games went,” Curry said. “There’s going to be a decision point in that game where we can either keep our foot on the gas pedal and keep momentum and take the crowd out of it or let them do what they been doing.”
The way the Warriors approached this must-win game in their building is the way the Thunder will attack Game 6. Oklahoma City doesn’t want to return to the Bay Area for a winner-take-all game. Durant and Westbrook know what’s at stake, just like Curry did Thursday night.
“We didn’t give ourselves any chance to be competitive in OKC,” Curry said. “[Last night] we showed what we’re capable of and we have to take that game and travel to OKC.”
Curry had the kind of performance the MVP is supposed to have in these situations, facing elimination, at home, and he raised his play in the fourth to help put the Thunder away.
After the Thunder cut a 13-point deficit to five, Curry got in the paint, was fouled and completed the three-point play. On the ensuing possession, he bottled up Durant and forced him into a miss. Later, Curry stole the ball from Durant and went in for the layup.
Curry didn’t look like himself in Games 3 and 4. It could be the lingering effects of a knee injury he suffered in the first round against Houston. According to one report, Curry is playing at 70 percent, but he looked fine Thursday night.
“I think he’s 91 percent,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr joked. “He came out and played a really good game. He’s going to compete every night.”
The Warriors got big games from many players. Klay Thompson scored 27. Draymond Green returned to making his presence felt in a positive way for Golden State after two off games. Playing with emotion, Green had 11 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
And Kerr made what proved to be the right move, playing center Andrew Bogut for 30 minutes, after he totaled 56 in the prior four games. Bogut had 15 points and 14 rebounds. Bogut helped take away the Thunder’s rebounding edge that had been so prominent in this series. The rebounding battle was even, which was a victory for the Warriors.
“I liked our will,” Kerr said. “I liked our fight. We were embarrassed in OKC the past couple of games. We had great energy and we played with great desperation. That’s how you have to play in the playoffs.”
That’s what it going to take for the Warriors to keep their season, and this series going.
“Our guys have had a spectacular run the past two years,” Kerr said. “They’ve loved every minute of it. They don’t want it to end.”
It showed in Game 5, but the Warriors’ biggest and toughest challenge awaits them in Game 6. They’ll either prove their championship mettle in Oklahoma City tomorrow or they’ll be going home – and staying home.