ORACLE ARENA — A sluggish start and no way to contain Kevin Durant left the Warriors looking confused and down 30-13 in the first quarter.
But using every weapon in their artillery, including a game-high 34 points from Stephen Curry, Golden State pulled up its bootstraps, tightened its grip and snapped the Thunder’s seven-game winning streak in a 114-109 comeback victory.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said using a small lineup and getting the ball movement flowing against the Thunder was key in the win and that a win like this couldn’t have come at a better time:
“They are a scary team … It was a really good, focused effort from our guys and it came at the right time because I think maybe we are a little tired right now at this point of the season and it was a hell of an effort as a result.”
In the final play of the first half, Durant drove hard into the paint and Marreese Speights drew the charge while Durant lay on the court in pain. The Thunder later reported that Durant would not return to the game having suffered a mild right-ankle sprain.
But prior to the injury, Durant looked like he was on a mission to remind the Bay who the reigning MVP is. In just over four minutes in the opening frame, Durant scored 16 points, helping the Thunder gain a 17-point first quarter lead.
Durant’s performance was on pace to be legendary. He played only 18 minutes and finished with 30 points — his first 30-point performance of the season — and became the first player since the ABA-NBA merger to score at least 30 points in fewer than 20 minutes.
Kerr said guarding Durant when he’s on a roll is nearly impossible and joked that he was open to suggestions on how to approach it:
“The logical thing when he’s hitting three’s from 28 feet is to get up on him and make him put it on the floor but he’s pretty good at doing that too. You have to stay with it and just trust that eventually he will slow down a little bit.”
Fortunately for the Warriors Green was able find a rhythm late in the first, knocking down 11 points to bring the Warriors within single digits at the close of the first quarter.
The Warriors continued to clamp down defensively and their offense benefitted. By midway through the second quarter Golden State had taken the lead and made it 50-48 after Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks was charged a technical foul when he became frustrated with the officials.
With 13 points from Curry in the second quarter, the Warriors went into the second half with a 65-63 lead.
But even with Durant sidelined, Russell Westbrook led the way and the rest of the Thunder were relentless, making it tough on the Warriors down the stretch.
Shaun Livingston, who led the Warriors bench with 12 points on the night, told SFBay that when the star player on the other team goes down, its tough to overcome the tendency to loosen the grip:
“Mentally it’s natural just to do that once the star player isn’t playing. Its natural to just to think you can show up and play, but this is the NBA and all these guys have talent and they are a well coached team. They still play team defense and they still have great star power in Westbrook.”
With just 5:16 remaining in the game, Westbrook hit a jumper to make it a one-point game with the Warriors leading 104-103. In an almost identical play, Westbrook hit another jumper and gave the Thunder the lead with 2:59 left to play.
Curry said in order to overcome playing down once Durant was out, all he had to do was look up:
“You look at the scoreboard and see that you haven’t really separated yourself and understand that we have to protect home court…We had fought so hard to get back in the game going into half time, we didn’t want to relinquish that at all.”
The Warriors resilience paid off, with Golden State closing out the game on a 10-4 run, capped by a Harrison Barnes fadeaway jumper, to secure its 22nd victory of the season.
The Warriors, now 22-3 on the season, will practice through the weekend and return to Oracle to host the Sacramento Kings (11-15) Monday.
The Thunder scored 40 points in the first quarter, the most the Warriors have allowed in any quarter this season. … The Warriors finished with 32 assists, their league-leading seventh game this season with at least 30 assists. … Golden State entered the contest leading the league in blocks (6.71), registering seven in tonight’s contest. The Warriors have blocked at least five shots in 21 games this season, an NBA best. … Stephen Curry tallied a game-high 34 points, nine assists and seven boards. He has posted at least 15 points and five assists in 24 games (of 25 this season), and NBA best. … Draymond Green was one rebound and one assist shy of a triple-double. He dished out a career-high nine assists, to go along with 16 points and a team-high nine rebounds.