Record sea­son means noth­ing if War­riors fail tonight

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - FRONT PAGE - By Janie McCauley

OAK­LAND, Calif. — Af­ter a record 73 wins and a mem­o­rable Game 6 come­back on the road, the Golden State War­riors’ goal of get­ting back to the NBA fi­nal and de­fend­ing their ti­tle comes down to Game 7 at home against the pow­er­ful Ok­la­homa City Thun­der.

All along, the War­riors have said the nu­mer­ous team mile­stones and per­sonal ac­com­plish­ments they set dur­ing this spe­cial sea­son won’t mat­ter a bit un­less they re­peat as cham­pi­ons.

They need one more vic­tory to be­come the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 post-sea­son deficit.

“I’ve learned that our play­ers are tough, they’re men­tally tough,” Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said Sun­day, when his team took a day off from film and prac­tice. “I don’t know if I re­ally learned that. I al­ready knew that. But they’ve firmly con­firmed that. It’s been a great come­back. Now we still have to play. We still have an­other game.”

Kerr just wanted his War­riors to grab back some mo­men­tum from Kevin Du­rant and the Thun­der. Now, they have it, all right, head­ing into the de­ci­sive game of the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal tonight af­ter win­ning two straight.

When his team won Game 5 on Thurs­day night, MVP Stephen Curry hollered “We ain’t go­ing home!” — and Golden State wants no part of the Thun­der hav­ing the last say in the War­riors’ sum­mer plans.

“We got a big one last night to stay alive, and now we’ve got some mo­men­tum. But it can work in re­verse,” Kerr said. “One game changes every­thing, and we’ve got to come out and play our game and play well to fin­ish the se­ries out.”

Golden State hardly con­sid­ers this a gimme just be­cause the team is play­ing at deaf­en­ing Or­a­cle Arena, where the War­riors have lost just three times this sea­son. They have had their prob­lems against Du­rant, Rus­sell West­brook and the tow­er­ing Thun­der.

Ok­la­homa City is fu­elled by try­ing to reach its first NBA fi­nal since los­ing to LeBron James and the Mi­ami Heat in 2012. James and the Cleve­land Cava­liers are wait­ing on tonight’s winner.

“It’s go­ing to be a hard game. If we thought tonight was hard, Game 7’s go­ing to be even tougher,” Curry said. “Every­body on both sides of the ball is go­ing to leave it all out on the floor. It’s win or go home. So we can’t ex­pect just be­cause we’re at home that we can just show up and win.”

As has been the case all playoffs with Curry ail­ing, Golden State got a huge per­for­mance from Klay Thomp­son. He made a play­off-record 11 three­p­oint­ers and scored 41 points in a 108101 win at Ok­la­homa City Satur­day night, and will need an en­core tonight.

“Lot of peo­ple prob­a­bly counted us out,” Thomp­son said.

Kerr said last week his group might be dif­fer­ent than all the other teams that have tried to come back from 3-1 down: be­cause the War­riors won it all last year.

The Thun­der cer­tainly would have pre­ferred to close out the se­ries at home over trav­el­ling back to the Bay Area for the de­cid­ing game.

Yet they never ex­pected it to be easy against the 2015 champs.

“This is what you dream about, get­ting this op­por­tu­nity. We’ve got to take ad­van­tage of it,” Du­rant said Sun­day. “Go up into their build­ing, and it’s go­ing to be great at­mos­phere... No mat­ter where you play, you’ve still got to play. That’s how we look at it.”

That’s partly be­cause first-year Thun­der coach Billy Dono­van has talked to his team about the men­tal­ity it takes to win in a hos­tile venue such as rau­cous, sold-out Or­a­cle Arena, and Ok­la­homa City came in and did it in Game 1.

“We lost Game 6, and it was a tough, hard-fought game,” Dono­van said. “We’re dis­ap­pointed about not hav­ing a dif­fer­ent out­come. But we haven’t lost the se­ries, and we have an op­por­tu­nity again. I think just be­ing around these guys, they’re a re­silient group.”

Curry and the War­riors ex­pect an­other en­ter­tain­ing, great game.

From an an­kle in­jury that side­lined him in the first round against the Hous­ton Rock­ets to a sprained right knee and puffy el­bow, Curry has dealt with his share of pain this post­sea­son. He has to push that aside for what he hopes is one more game this se­ries and then a sec­ond straight trip to the fi­nals and an­other cham­pi­onship.

“I ac­tu­ally kind of like it, be­cause you un­der­stand the mo­ment of the playoffs and just kind of gets you go­ing,” he said. “I’ll be ready to go and give it every­thing I’ve got for Game 7.”


Golden State War­riors guard Klay Thomp­son (right) was the hero Satur­day in Ok­la­homa City, pump­ing home 11 three-point­ers.

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