The math problem is basic and real.
It's pretty simple. Three-pointers are worth more than 2-pointers, and when you're not a good 3-point shooting team trying to take down the Golden State Warriors, you simply can't let them get going from beyond the arc. They got going big time in Game 6, and they did it again in Game 7 en route to a 96-88 victory that officially erased Oklahoma City's once-commanding 3-1 grip on this series.
"They beat us from the 3-point line the last two games," Kevin Durant explained. "We beat them everywhere else; they beat us from the 3-point line, and that was the series."
Games 6 and 7 saw the Warriors go a combined plus-84 from behind the 3-point line. They made 18 more 3-pointers than the Thunder in Game 6 to tie the series. They made 10 more 3-pointers than the Thunder in Game 7 to win the series. The Warriors won those two games by a combined 15 points, which shows you how much of an equalizer their 3-point shots were against a Thunder team that mostly outplayed them in those games. And when those treys start falling, no matter how tight you feel your defense is playing, you can't help but be a little demoralized in the process.
"It definitely sucks, bro," Steven Adams said after the Thunder's loss. "One of the keys, especially for this team, is to not get rattled. That's one of the main things because [the Warriors] just take advantage of it. Especially if they make their shots, it's hard to stay disciplined because you feel like you're doing something wrong."
The Warriors targeted Thunder center Adams in the second half of Game 7, despite him being a very good defender on the perimeter. He's not quite Marc Gasol, but he's been able to move his feet and give the Thunder confidence in his defensive abilities when he's switched onto the perimeter. The Warriors know if you put Stephen Curry against a big man consistently, eventually he'll have the upper hand and rain shots all over that decision to switch.
And if you even make them hesitate on switching or pick-and-roll coverage, then you get the rolls to the basket for shots inside or defensive collapses that make an extra pass to the corner go splash. The prevailing thought from the Thunder after this series is the disbelief in the shots the Warriors are able to make.
"Once they have confidence, they're the hardest team to stop," Andre Roberson said. "Once you give a shooter confidence, he can go off at any time."
That's exactly what happened with both Curry and Klay Thompson. Thompson started out 1-of-8 in the game, with his only make coming from behind the 3-point line. He was 1-of-4 from deep during that opening stretch. The beauty of the Warriors is they foster the confidence that the dam will break if you just keep shooting those shots. Occasionally, this will come back to bite them, but for the most part it just breeds this feeling of inevitability burrowing into the subconscious of their opponents. That inevitability exists within the Warriors' minds, as well.
"For me, I like to think it's a matter of time before I knock a few in," Thompson said after finishing with 21 points and going 6-of-11 from deep. "And when that happens, my confidence is back."
The Thunder just couldn't escape the 3-point line though. Few teams have been able to do it during the Warriors' run the last two seasons. The Warriors are historically the best team to ever hoist from beyond the arc, and the Thunder were slightly below average in making 3-pointers this season. When you're trading two for three, you know it'll take at least two possessions to make up for any 3-pointer the opponent makes.
It's what makes the rematch of the NBA Finals so fascinating. The Warriors are the greatest shooting team ever. The Cleveland Cavaliers are having the best 3-point shooting postseason ever. Someone will have to solve the math problem against the other, and that team will likely walk away with the championship.