A couple of days after surprising the world by eliminating the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semi-finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder wanted to prove that it wasn't just a fluke.
And they did it, at the expense of the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
Kevin Durant scored 26 points, 10 boards, and three steals while his fellow All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook had 27 points, 12 dimes, and seven steals to lead the Thunder to a 108-102 road victory in game one of the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors.
This is the first time that the Warriors lost at Oracle Arena in this year's playoffs.
"You have to have a mindset coming into these kinds of venues. Our guys, I think they understand what they're walking into," said Thunder coach Billy Donovan.
Two-time MVP Stephen Curry spearheaded the Warriors' offense, scoring 26 points and grabbing a playoff career-high 10 boards. Klay Thompson added 25 points, but Golden State's lackluster effort in the second half cost them the game.
The Warriors' 42 points in the last two quarters (14 in the fourth) are their lowest in the postseason.
We got rushed and tried to go for the home-run plays. Sometimes it works," said the MVP. "Defensively we were getting enough stops and rebounds. We got out of character a little bit. It's something we'll learn from going forward."
A dose of their own medicine
During the regular season, the Thunders often fell victims to the Warriors' late-game rallies, causing them to squander double-digit leads and lose games against the NBA Champs. This time, the Thunder returned the favor.
Trailing 60-47 heading after the first half, everybody thought that Oklahoma City would just go down. But Westbrook got out of a shooting slump and exploded for 19 of the Thunder's 38 point third quarter to bring them back into the game.
With the Warriors' lead cut to five at 88-83, Durant scored at the end of the third quarter to cut it to three, then followed it up by a game-tying triple with just 12 seconds into the final canto. Dion Waiters then scored on a layup with over ten minutes left to give OKC the first lead since the opening period.
From there, the Warriors tried to regain the lead, but the resilient Thunder never gave it away. It did not help that the calls were not in Golden State's favor in this game.
With 20 seconds left, Warriors' coach Steve Kerr went furious after the referees did not call what he believed was a traveling violation by Westbrook. OKC then called a timeout and despite Westbrook splitting his free throws, it was enough to preserve the win for the Thunder.
"I do think we lost our poise a little bit," said Kerr, the 2015-2016 NBA Coach of the Year. "And that had a lot to do with the quick shots."
Despite an exciting game, the superstars of both teams had their fair share of struggles in this game. Curry shot 9-for-22 from the field, including 6-for-14 from the three-point line. Meanwhile, fellow splash brother Thompson missed seven of his ten shots in the second half after bursting for 19 points in the first 24 minutes of the game. Meanwhile, Durant and Westbrook scored a combined 53 points, but also needed 50 shots to get them.
Game Two is on Wednesday, where Golden State will try to even the series at one-game apiece.