OKLAHOMA CITY -- You can try all you want to resist cliches, but sometimes there's only one way to tell the story. Forget analytics or X's and O's. The Golden State Warriors' remarkable 108-101 Game 6 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night came down to one thing.
As Rudy Tomjanovich once said, never underestimate the heart of a champion.
That is the simple truth here. The Warriors were outplayed for three quarters, outscored in each, and were down eight heading into the fourth. And Golden State simply responded and won with their game. Was it brilliant, precise play? Not really. Was it tough, hard-fought interior buckets? A few, and one crucial one by Andre Iguodala. But really? The Warriors just made all the shots. As usual.
Klay Thompson set an NBA record with 11 3-pointers en route to 41 back-breaking points, and Stephen Curry scored 20 of his 31 points in the second half to go with four assists as he finally got his rhythm back for a consistent stretch. Curry was nearly as brilliant as Thompson in finishing with six 3-pointers and one assist shy of a triple-double.
But what won't get talked about as much is how the Warriors simply wore down the Thunder with defense. Iguodala, their reigning Finals MVP, took over in the fourth quarter and made defensive play after defensive play. With Thompson and Curry combining for 25 points in the fourth quarter, and with Kevin Durant -- who struggled mightily while scoring 29 points on 31 shots -- seemingly out of gas and rattled by the Warriors' defense, Golden State returned to the team they've been all year in suffocating fashion.
This is who they are, if you were one of the people who forgot so quickly. The 73-win Warriors. The defending champion Warriors. The defensively sound Warriors. The make-whatever-needs-to-happen-happen Warriors. The momentum-riding, high-flying, splash-downing, unstoppable-force, greatest-team-of-all-time Warriors. Wherever they went in the first four games, that vacation ended in Game 5, and they put it away for good in Game 6.
More impressive Saturday was what the Warriors overcame. Curry clearly is not 100 percent, his explosiveness comes and goes. It seems like Curry's injury is so evident when he misses and disappears when he's on fire again, but the truth is that the injury is always there, he's just fighting through it. The two-time MVP had to overcome stifling defense and at least some degree of discomfort in his knee we'll never know.
But Curry stuck with it, and this time, he didn't happen like the firestorm he always seems to. He was a slow, rising burn. A made layup. A deep 3-pointer. A deeper 3-pointer. More plays, and then more Thompson and then Iguodala swiping the ball and Durant missing and Draymond Green knocking the ball away and that was that.
OKC's 3-1 series lead was gone. A series so many said was over is not even close to over. After a game for the ages, there stand two narratives: The mighty, unstoppable Warriors are back, and the Thunder once again found heartbreak amid the exaltation.
"I said from the beginning," Billy Donovan said in his postgame press conference, "[Steph Curry and Klay Thompson] make shots. And that's what they did tonight."
Donovan tried to warn us that Thompson and Curry had gotten good looks in Games 3 and 4 and missed. Even Game 5 wasn't the onslaught we saw in Game 6. The truth is that for all the talk of the Thunder's length and defensive intensity, when the Warriors find their rhythm, you could hit them with a truck and they'd just bank 4-point plays.
But this is what they do. They vanished for a while, but the "Death" lineup of Curry, Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Iguodala and Green shook loose of the doldrums and outscored the Thunder 21-10 in the fourth quarter.
"You have to have appropriate fear," Thompson said. "But when Steph hit that floater to put us up five, we knew if we just held on. ... It was so much fun to play with that fire for 48 minutes."
That fire raged out of control for the first time in this series, and it likely spelled the end. Both teams will talk up Game 7 at Oracle Arena on Monday night. "Game 7s? That's what people live for," Draymond Green said. But in truth, Game 6 was the Thunder's Game 7. Home teams are 8-2 after going down 3-1 and forcing a Game 7. This was OKC's chance. The Thunder had been the better team over the course of five and three quarters games. But they had to win Game 6.
Instead, the inevitable Warriors title run arrived with vengeance. Their resiliency emerged from the hostile crowd, Curry's tough start, Westbrook's intensity and OKC's role players stepping up. Through it all, the Warriors did what champions do, they found ways to win.
"We've got a lot of belief and heart," Curry said. "We've given ourselves a chance to win this series. That's all we could ask for. There's a lot of excitement, but there's still a job to do. The way we played tonight shows who we are, and we have one more chance to impose our will in this series and that's what we want to do."
It seemed over for the Warriors, their magical season in shreds. But fierce defense, savvy veteran play, and as always, shots on shots on shots, and that narrative is dead. The Warriors, the real Warriors, are back. The champions are back.
You can bet they won't give anyone the opportunity to underestimate them again.