It’s almost unexplainable.
How does Oklahoma City, which has struggled mightily in fourth quarters, outscore Golden State, a team full of closers, 23-14 in the fourth quarter Monday at ORACLE, where the Warriors were 45-2 this season?
“I would say it came out of energy and effort,” NBA champion and NBA analyst Brendan Haywood said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “They made a lot of energy-and-effort plays, and they didn’t win the game with their offense; they won it with their defense. Down the stretch, Kevin Durant missed a lot of shots. Russ missed shots. But they got the shots they wanted, and more importantly, they got back in transition. They didn’t give Golden State any easy looks, and all of the Oklahoma City big men were up on screen-and-rolls and were challenging Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s shots, making it very hard for them to get looks. And they didn’t get any of those easy backdoors and wide-open threes that they normally get out of timeouts that Steve Kerr does a great job of getting. OKC, their players were ready for all those plays and they were dialed in and they were right where they were supposed to be. So their defense is probably what won them that game more than their offense.”
The Thunder allowed just 42 points in the second half of their 108-102 win Monday night – quite the accomplishment given that they allowed 60 in the first half, including 33 in the third quarter.
And yet, many people feel Oklahoma City won in large part because the refs missed a clear travel on Westbrook in the final minute. Haywood believes Westbrook definitely walked but doesn’t think that that’s why the Thunder won the game.
“A lot of times when these types of situations happen, you see fans almost want to act like OKC didn’t play a very good game,” Haywood said. “But the call was bad. The fact that they missed it, it was very egregious. In that situation, when you have three guys looking at the ball, I don’t understand how you miss that call. He didn’t just slide. This was a moonwalk-type slide. He slid like three feet. So they obviously should have made the call. I don’t understand where the referees are looking at. It sets a very bad precent that refs have made countless errors on OKC’s side in these playoffs. If OKC wins, too many people will be talking about the refs instead of their good play. I think they have to find a way to clean it up.”
Haywood, who played in the NBA for 14 years and spent his final season – last season – in Cleveland, was also asked about his former teammate, LeBron James.
Specifically, Doug Gottlieb wondered if James was throwing shade at Curry with his whole best-versus-valuable discussion last week.
Haywood didn’t hesitate.
“Yes, that was a very diplomatic, polite way to say, ‘I’m still the best player in the league’ on the day that Steph Curry got the MVP trophy,” Haywood said. “I still think he’s the best player in the league. I still think he affects the game in so many different aspects. But it was poor timing. It was Steph’s day. On that day, all you talk about is he won MVP. Great. Congratulations. He’s won the MVP four times, and. LeBron wouldn’t have wanted anybody talking that type of noise about him when he won it. So I think it was poorly timed. It was almost like a look-at-me type situation where there didn’t need to be one.”
But if James is right – and Gottlieb believes he is – what’s wrong with him saying that?
“He’s not wrong,” Haywood reiterated. “It’s true. I agree with him. But it was poorly timed. It’s Steph’s day.”