Yes, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook performed well in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Monday, combining for a robust 53 points, 16 rebounds, 15 assists and 10 steals.
But they might not have been the difference in the game.
That honor, believe it or not, might go to Steven Adams.
“As much as people look at guys like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, I thought the guy that really hurt them was Steven Adams,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area Warriors insider Monte Poole said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “When you have that guy getting 16 and 12, you’ve got a problem, especially when Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli aren’t giving you much. So that’s the guy they have to contain. It’s hard for me to believe I’m saying that, but Steven Adams is a guy the Warriors have to stop.”
Indeed, after a solid yet unspectacular regular season, Adams has erupted for six double-doubles in the playoffs. Serge Ibaka, who had been quiet in recent weeks, chipped in with a double-double of his own in Game 1, finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Then there’s Westbrook, who, with seven steals, was a terror defensively.
All of that helped Durant (10-of-30) and Westbrook (7-of-21) overcome off shooting nights.
“You look at the numbers that Russ and KD put up, they shot 33 percent,” Poole said. “You’d take that every time. If you can get that every game, you take it. But you don’t want to get to a position where their defense (takes you out of the game). I believe Durant is a truly underrated defender. He’s a long guy that can defend multiple positions. When he puts his mind to it, he’s a stopper. You saw that (Monday) night. So the Thunder, with Durant and Adams and Ibaka and Westbrook and (Andre) Roberson – you’ve got long-armed guys in there that are just disrupting things. So the Warriors got a little fine with it. They sometimes get ahead at home and they start to want to put on a show, and Oklahoma City basically said, ‘No, not against us. We’re not the team you can do that against.’ And it cost them.”
The Warriors scored 60 points in the first half and were riding high after Steph Curry drilled a buzzer-beating three to give the Warriors a 13-point lead at the break.
The Thunder, however, wouldn’t go quietly, scoring 38 points in the third quarter and limiting the Warriors to 14 in the fourth. A 13-point halftime deficit became a six-point win.
“OKC, to come back the way they did, they’re a different team,” Poole said. “Draymond Green mentioned that (Tuesday). He said, ‘They’re a different team than what we saw this season.’ The Warriors swept them in three games, but they’re a different team now. Adams is a big reason why, but also I think the mentality is different. They just took down the Spurs. Taking down the Spurs this season is a huge feather in your cap. If you’re not confident going into that series, you come out of that thing and you’re a world-beater. OKC came into Oakland the other night and they’re beating their chests. Then they beat the Warriors in Game 1? They feel pretty, pretty, pretty good about themselves.”