The Golden State Warriors will defend their NBA championship after completing a remarkable comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder, taking out Monday’s much-anticipated game seven 96-88.
After breaking the NBA’s and Chicago Bulls’ regular-season wins record with 73, the Warriors were facing elimination from the Western Conference finals after trailing 3-1 but a Stephen Curry masterclass sealed Golden State’s spot in the NBA Finals for a second consecutive season.
The Thunder did mount a late charge, going on a 7-0 run inside the final two minutes but the Warriors extinguished Oklahoma City’s hopes thanks to MVP Curry, who made three free throws before sealing the win with a shot from beyond the arc to set up a rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers, starting Thursday.
Curry was a constant threat from long range, posting seven three-pointers to finish with 36 points as the Warriors became the second team in the past 20 years to rally from a deficit of more than 13 points in a seventh and deciding play-off game.
The only other team to do so were the Los Angeles Lakers against the Portland Trail Blazers in 2000.
Seeking to snap back-to-back defeats for a place in the Finals, Kevin Durant (27 points) and Russell Westbrook’s (19 points, 13 assists) Thunder side stormed out of the blocks, outscoring the Warriors 24-19 in the first quarter.
The Thunder, having led by as many as 13 points, then maintained their lead for a 48-42 advantage at half-time.
But that was as good as it got for the Thunder as Curry took centre stage, leading the charge in the third period.
After nailing the three-pointer to level the match at 54-apiece with seven minutes remaining, Curry then drained his shot from beyond the arc to give the Warriors the lead.
It was more of the same in the final quarter, despite the Warriors missing consecutive lay-ups, with Curry coming up trumps again with a three-pointer and then a jump shot to give the home team an eight-point lead.
And despite being outscored 28-25 in the quarter, the Warriors withstood the Thunder to become the first team since 1981 to win the conference finals after trailing 3-1.