WASHINGTON: Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry saved the season for defending NBA champion Golden State, sparking a stunning fourth-quarter rally to beat host Oklahoma City 108-101 and avoid playoff elimination.
Thompson scored a career playoff high 41 points, including an NBA one-game playoff record 11 3-pointers in 18 attempts, and NBA Most Valuable Player Curry added 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Warriors leveled the best-of-seven Western Conference final at three wins each.
“I’m so proud of everybody,” Thompson said. “We were down almost the whole game. We never gave up and our resiliency got us through. We kept our composure. We knew if we didn’t get it done we were going home.”
The winner of Monday’s game seven at Oakland will advance to the NBA Finals, facing the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers when the best-of-seven championship series opens Thursday.
But after squandering a 3-1 series lead by botching a golden chance to advance at home, the Thunder must win on a court where the Warriors lost only twice all season.
“We can’t hang our heads. We have another game to play,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “Win or go home. Simple as that.”
Among their greatest wins
Trailing 89-81 with nine minutes remaining, the Warriors closed with a 27-12 run — 19-5 over the final seven minutes and 12-2 in the last three — in a thriller Thompson and Curry ranked among their greatest wins.
“It has to be because of the situation,” Thompson said. “Everybody probably counted us out. It was great fun to play with that fire, that emotion.”
“This was a huge win for us,” Curry said. “Doesn’t win us a ring — we don’t want to pop the champagne or anything. It ranks right up there for sure because we’re still alive.”
Thompson scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter for Golden State and added two more clutch 3-pointers in the period after a brief pep talk from Curry before the last quarter began.
“Steph told me, ‘This is your time. Show what you can do out there,’” Thompson said. “I tried to take that to heart.”
Thunder star Kevin Durant made four turnovers in the last 99 seconds and Westbrook lost two more in the dramatic final moments.
“They got their hands on some balls, but for the most part we tried to make the right plays, make the right decisions, especially down the stretch,” Westbrook said.
Thunder ‘stagnant’ late
Thunder coach Billy Donovan wanted to see more players involved in those key plays.
“We just didn’t help each other enough in those situations,” Donovan said. “They made big plays coming down the stretch and we got a little stagnant.”
The Warriors got more intense.
“We had so much more grit, the toughness that was lacking in (lost games) three and four,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Game five helped us regain our confidence. We knew we could come in here and play a much better game.”
Curry’s 3-pointer with 2:47 remaining tied the game at 99-99 and Thompson made the last of his 3-pointers with 95 seconds remaining to put the Warriors ahead to stay at 104-101.
“This game was probably the hardest game of our lives,” Curry said. “We felt like we had control of the game. We just needed a stop or two. They got some garbage, the ball bouncing their way. We felt like we could turn the game around, and we did.
“We’ve got to keep it going at home. We’ve got a great opportunity.”
The Warriors, who produced the best regular season mark in NBA history at 73-9 in this campaign, kept defensive poise down the stretch.
“That has been our calling card, made us a championship-caliber team,” Curry said. “Down the stretch we stayed disciplined.
“Game seven, if we give that same effort, we’ll be fine.”
Thompson’s amazing 3-point shooting in the final minutes stole the show, shocking even backcourt partner Curry, who this year set an NBA record for 3-pointers in a season.
“It was unbelievable,” Curry said. “We needed every single one of them.
“All Klay needs is a sliver of daylight. The shots he made were huge. I’m sure there’s more in the chamber for game seven. We need that punch.”
Kerr has learned to live with the long-range heroics of Thompson and Curry.
“They walk that fine line between lethal and crazy,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We have to live with that.”