Inside The Paint: O'Neal had chance for rebound on final possession
There was nothing Mark Jackson could do to defend Russell Westbrook's game-winning three-pointer on Friday night. (AP)
The final, futile seconds of the latest Warriors loss should be, probably will be, rewound and replayed by the likes of Jermaine O'Neal and David Lee.
The Warriors were leading by two, a loose ball was in the air and neither big man could control it or gather it in – or otherwise keep it away from Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook.
As painful as it was to see Westbrook drill the game-winning, 3-point shot with .1 second left on Friday, sending the Warriors to a 113-112 overtime loss to the Thunder, it has to be more agonizing to the Warriors to realize it was Westbrook who kept alive a missed shot that ended up back in his hands in the corner.
"Russell just wanted the basketball more than anybody else on the floor,'' Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "He had great will. He made a big play and we didn't go get the basketball.''
When Serge Ibaka's 15-foot jumper bounced off the rim with five seconds to play, the 6-foot-11 O'Neal reached for the rebound but couldn't seize it because it was tipped away from behind by Westbrook, a tremendous leaper but only 6-3.
With the ball loose, Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha raced around the stationary Lee to grab the ball and, while going out of bounds, fling it toward Westbrook. He grabbed it and quickly lost defender Harrison Barnes before tossing up a 20-footer that finished the Warriors.
"When you make them take a tough jump shot, contest it, and you can't get the rebound, you give them an opportunity,'' Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. "It's tough.''
Fact is the Warriors were holding a lead because Barnes had beaten Sefolosha on the baseline for a go-ahead bucket with 45 seconds left. They got only one more shot from the field, a Barnes miss, while the Thunder put up four more shots, the last being Westbrook's winner.
"Overall, the energy and effort were great,'' Jackson said of his team. "We competed against a very good team in their building. It just boils down to one more possession, and we didn't do it.''
To be sure, the Warriors played sound defense, holding Westbrook to 10-of-25 shooting and Kevin Durant to 7-of-22. The Thunder shot 39 percent for the game. The Warriors also scored more points in the paint (38-36)
Not that those numbers provided any comfort as the Warriors (9-8) lost for the fifth time in the last six games.
"We're way past moral victories for this organization,'' Curry said. "This is hopefully a learning lesson for us to find a way to finish the game.''
Curry looked confident and his shot was falling. After shooting 40 percent over his previous six games – including a two 7-for-20 efforts – Curry scored 32 points on 13-of-26 shooting. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, tying his career high. Maybe he's finding his stroke.
Barnes put in a season-high 26 points, including an acrobatic reverse layup that gave the Warriors a lead with 45 seconds remaining in OT.
Though Lee achieved the coveted double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds), he missed 10 of 12 shots and was not the offensive factor we're accustomed to seeing.
Klay Thompson missed nine of 10 shots in the first half, and some of them were open looks he usually drains as a matter of routine. He finished 5-of-19 from the floor.
The bench once again was outscored, this time 25-14.
The Warriors were scheduled to arrive early Saturday morning in Sacramento, where on Sunday afternoon (3 o'clock, Comcast Sports Net) they face the Kings. The Warriors were 98-87 winners over the Kings on Nov. 2, the only previous meeting this season between the Northern California rivals.