The Thunder entered tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors having lost two straight and owning a 7-9 record. There were major issues with the offense, holes in the defense, and a basic inability to close games. Facing Kevin Durant and the Warriors, many didn’t expect Oklahoma City to figure things out.
As it turns out, those problems melted away.
Russell Westbrook went for 34 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, turning in a masterful performance en route to the Thunder’s 108-91 victory over the reigning NBA champs. Carmelo Anthony added 22 points, Paul George chipped in 20 points and suffocating defense, while Steven Adams added a 14 & 12 double-double. Oklahoma City was able to establish a lead in the first quarter, built on it, and never relinquished it — something that escaped the team in many of its losses.
The Thunder moves to 8-9 on the season and returns to action Friday against the Detroit Pistons. Let’s dive into this big win over Golden State.
The Thunder Closed
Because of the Thunder’s issues closing games this season, most of the night was spent with OKC enjoying a double-digit lead — but an ominous feeling hung over the game. The Thunder led by seven after the first quarter, took a 17 point lead into the half, but there was a prevailing thought with 24 minutes remaining: This is where it starts.
Unlike many performances so far this season, OKC didn’t let up with the game in hand. The Thunder took a double-digit lead with four minutes to go in the second quarter, and the Warriors never pulled within single-digits again. Billy Donovan was smart with his timeouts, stopping Golden State runs before they really got started. And, of course, there was Russell Westbrook and the OK3 willing the team on.
It was a demon exorcism of the highest order for the Thunder, and something the team hopefully builds on. OKC looked entirely different down the stretch in this one — and the glimpse of a complete effort is enough to make fans salivate.
The OK…4 Breaks Out
Check out the stat lines for the Thunder’s core four:
Westbrook: 34 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, 13/27 FG, +17
George: 20 points, 11 rebounds, 4 steals, 8/19 FG, 4/10 3P, +8
Anthony: 22 points, 5 rebounds, 8/17 FG, 3/7 3P, +16
Adams: 14 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals, 4/8 FG, +8
The four all logged heavy minutes and combined to score just one fewer point than the entire Warriors team. When you factor in Andre Roberson’s night of defense — he was a +14 — it was a very fantastic night for the starting five. (It had to be, as the bench combined to score 12 points.)
Russell Westbrook Looked Like Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook scored a season-high 34 points and set the tone for the Thunder. He played fast, angry, got in several verbal altercations with Durant, and served as the catalyst for most of what OKC accomplished. He’s been a shell of his MVP-self in recent games, so it was great to see him dominate the game on an emotional level.
A couple items to note:
This altercation with Durant was particularly contentious. Resulted in double technicals.
This hammer about brought the house down:
All-in-all it was a fantastic game for Westbrook — none better to have it against than his old buddy KD. He was uber-aggressive and pushed the Thunder to play the type of basketball you’d ideally see them play more often.
Paul George Played Like a Superstar
Russell Westbrook will deservedly get a lot of praise in this one, but I thought Paul George looked like the best player on the floor many times tonight. He recorded four steals, but deflected ten more passes and was extremely disruptive on the defensive end. He was a difference maker, plain and simple.
Oh — and check the Curry shimmy after he knocked down the three here. This guy gets it.
Notes & Highlights
Not Over It. Anyone expecting a comedown from Thunder faithful is likely very disappointed. Kevin Durant was mercilessly booed every single time he touched the ball for a full 48 minutes. There weren’t dancing cupcakes or anything wild, but still a lot of boos from a crowd that was absolutely electric.
Not Over It (Part II): For as much talking as Durant and Westbrook do about it being another game, it was anything but. The two men jawed at each other all night, and had several run-ins that resulted in words being shared. The “I’m comin’!” tirade from last season will be remembered always, but I actually thought they were much worse tonight.
KD & Steph. Durant finished with 21 points and 5 rebounds on 8/17 shooting. Steph Curry had 24 points but shot just 3/8 from downtown.
Cold Night for Dray & Klay. Klay Thompson will forever be known as a heart breaker in OKC, but he was wildly ineffective tonight. Being draped by George, Roberson and Josh Huestis, he shot 3/12 and finished with 9 points. Draymond Green tallied 4 points on 1/6 shooting.
On the Glass. The Thunder abused Golden State on the glass, taking a 50-39 advantage. The Thunder also scored 40 points in the paint.
On the Run. OKC won the fast break battle by a tally of 33-10 — a huge part of this game. The Thunder’s ability to slow down the Warriors in transition was key, and scoring transition buckets of their own reduced the necessity to run an actual offense.
Paul George on his first Thunder/Warriors game. Via Fred Katz.
Russ talks about the emotions of playing KD. Via Royce Young.