Well. That happened.
The Golden State Warriors, fueled by Steph Curry’s 46 points, delivered a heartbreaking 121-118 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The official stat book reads that Curry’s final dagger was launched from 32 feet away. You could say it was shot from Moore, the parking lot, wherever. You know how far away it was? He let the shot go with 2.8 seconds left. The clock read 0.6 when he drilled it. That’s far. The actual distance was 38.4 feet.
You could talk about Kevin Durant incredible 37-point performance. Or the fact that he fouled out within the first minute of overtime. You could talk about how Russell Westbrook did an amazing job on stepping up in place of Durant, finding the open man cutting to the basket. You could talk about his amazing denial defense throughout the game. There’s so many things to discuss, but all of them pale in comparison to Curry’s absurdity and how it left OKC in the dust. Thunder coach Billy Donovan couldn’t get caught up in the insanity of the game. Instead, he looked on the bright side.
“Overall, I thought it was a game where our guys just laid it on the line,” Donovan said. “I thought we took a step in the right direction defensively. I thought there were a lot of positive things to take away from the game. Hopefully we can continue to grow and develop from this.”
The game had a lot of energy and theatrics aplenty. It apparently had a halftime motivational speech, with plenty of profanities, from Draymond Green. The Warriors received a scare when Curry turned his left ankle early in the third quarter. It ultimately didn’t matter as the machine went 14-of-24 from the field (12-of-16 from 3-point range).
OKC had a seven-point lead with 3:14 left in regulation. Against many opponents, that’s likely a situation where you can feel good about the likelihood of getting a victory. You just knew that wasn’t a large enough lead against Golden State. That’s what the Warriors do to teams now. They just take away any sense of security that can be established. Instead, they keep you on your heels, even if you possess a lead. Curry just has a supreme understanding of the length and time in a game. On top of that, he knows he has range that is unparalleled, allowing him to keep his team within striking distance. The Thunder found that out the hard way.
The Thunder needed a strong response against the Warriors. After winning 14 of 16 games from Jan. 12-Feb. 11, the Thunder had dropped three of their last four – including consecutive home games to Indiana and Cleveland last weekend. On top of that, many observers believe that the Thunder are the one team in the league that can really give the Warriors a battle. They did so in the matchup backup on February 7, and they did so again on Saturday night. Alas, they still remain winless against the Warriors. Back to the drawing board.
“I always want to win,” Durant said. “Moral victories are for young teams. We just need to get better from it and worry about the next game.”
Even if it was a frustrating loss, Durant knows that the game was just one of 82.
“I’m going to go home and enjoy me a nice meal and a nice glass of wine,” Durant continued. “I’ll be straight.”
For many, there’s likely a sense of inevitability with watching the Warriors. They took a tremendous shot from the Thunder, withstood it, and delivered a much bigger one of their own. With a 53-5 record, the Warriors are chasing history and leaving the rest of the league feeling dejected. The Thunder have to avoid that line of thinking and prepare for Sacramento on Monday. They have to prepare for them, but they also have to load up as they’ll face the Warriors for the final time in the regular season on Thursday.
They’ve faced the Golden State twice and were unable to close out either game. The rest of the season needs to be about learning and improving, and it needs to be about finding a way to crack the Warriors’ code.
- There were a lot of Golden State fans in the building. It was a spectacle when Curry went through his warmups just over an hour prior to tip. The man and team are such a traveling circus right now.
- Andre Roberson did a tremendous job tracking Klay Thompson all night long. There was solid defense and great hustle plays made by Roberson. That said, Thompson still scored 32 points and went 12-of-23 from the field.
- Randy Foye once again got the primary look as the backup point guard for the Thunder and that made a ton of sense as Cameron Payne looked incredibly shaky in the last matchup against the Warriors. Foye didn’t look shaky, but Durant ended up being the primary ballhandler more often than not when Foye was on the floor. Neither Foye or Payne saw action in the second half.
- After being a ghost in the first matchup against the Warriors, Serge Ibaka came up huge in Saturday’s game. He was a factor on the glass in this matchup and turned a very poor start from the field into a solid one.
- Enes Kanter was extremely active again against the Warriors. The fact that the Warriors want to use Anderson Verejao more only helps Kanter and his ability to be a factor when he’s on the floor.
- Golden State won the bench battle in the last matchup (42-17). They finished with a 31-20 advantage on Saturday night.
- The Thunder were plus-30 on the glass (62-32). What killed them was the fact that they missed nine free throws and turned the ball over 23 times. You can’t have that when you’re trying to beat a nearly unbeatable team.
- The Warriors went just 7-of-26 against the Thunder back in the early February matchup. Outside of Curry’s barrage, the Warriors went just 2-of-16 from long range. Of course, you can’t just erase Curry’s numbers. The Thunder are showing some modicum of success in taking away the 3-point shot, even if they don’t have anything to show for it.
Next up: at Sacramento Monday.