Warriors ride Kevin Durant, trample Thunder

Though ESPN televised Wednesday night’s game, and all the national media was covering it, Warriors vs. Thunder II didn’t have the same feel.

There was no buzz before tip, and the crowd was dead for the better part of the game. Maybe it was burnout from the Warriors’ emotional demolition of the Cavaliers two days before, but it seemed no one was hyped for this rematch.

Except Kevin Durant.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

Durant eviscerated his old team once again, leading the Warriors (36-6) to a 121-100 victory, scoring 40 points on a blistering 13-of-16 shooting. He became the first Warrior in the shot clock era to score 40 or more points on 16 or fewer attempts.

Insanely, even with his 40-point performance, Durant raised his scoring average against the Thunder by just 0.5 points per game.

Durant noticeably deflected praise when asked about his huge night after the game:

“My teammates are doing a good job of freeing me up … I just happened to knock them down … The ball just found whoever was open and made the right play all night.”

Of just three Durant misses, one was a half-court heave at the buzzer and another was a missed dunk that would have broken ground in the Warriors’ current arena. So for the game, he basically missed just one shot.

Steve Kerr credited Durant’s movement off ball with the success, as the Warriors weren’t really calling plays for him:

“The ball tends to find him. He’s really been cutting and moving better than he has all season. I think the last couple weeks he’s been doing a better job of that. But the efficiency level of this guy is just amazing. He’s probably not going to win the MVP… but I don’t think anybody’s more efficient.”

Perhaps surprising was that the game was actually close for the first two quarters and tied at halftime. But the Warriors once again used a strong third quarter to bash their opponents into submission, outscoring the Thunder 37-22 in the third frame.

This is hardly shocking if you follow Golden State, as the third has been the club’s most prolific quarter and has been used to put away many an opponent. They lead the league in average third quarter margin per teamrankings, outscoring teams by 5.4 points.

The Warriors bench once again played a huge part in the decisive victory. Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West provided the stabilizing force which righted a ship in danger of sinking after 13 first half turnovers. The trio scored 22 points combined on 11-of-17 shooting.

The also took care of the ball offensively committing just one turnover in the decisive third.

West, however, would leave the game in the fourth quarter with what X-rays revealed after the game to be a non-displaced fracture of his left thumb. He’ll be forced to miss at least the next two weeks, which came at the worst possible time as West was really starting to hit his stride.

Draymond Green who had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, will probably see an increase in time at center, which has mad mixed results this year after being a death blow for teams the previous season.

But Green said there is a concern with West being out for so long:

“He’s been playing great, the last few weeks he’s been amazing for us. He’s been a steady force for us. Definitely going to hurt a little bit to not have him there bit it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up.”

Russell Westbrook tried to gain any sort of advantage over his old mate and had another triple-double, but with what has been a regularity, shot an inefficient 8-of-23 with 10 turnovers.

Klay Thompson was the primary defender almost all night on Westbrook but it takes team defense to hold the super athlete in check.

Stephen Curry, who finished with 24 points and eight assists, said that the Warriors defense has been looking much improved lately:

“Rotations have to be crisp. I think that’s the biggest part that we’ve gotten better with, being on a string. One guy would either trap or kicks to the corner, you’ve got to have another guy sprinting to the wing. It takes effort, it takes energy and you’ve got to be able to see the play happen.”

The lack of Steven Adams left the Thunder (25-19) with little to no resistance at the rim. The only Thunder players to record a block through three quarters were Westbrook, Cameron Payne and Victor Oladipo, all guards who stand 6-foot-4 or shorter. Jeremi Grant did pick up two blocks in garbage time.

It looked like the eyes of every Warrior lit up when they drove to the hoop with no one to deter them. They racked up 56 points in the paint.

With all their scoring inside, the Warriors relied less on their usual 3-point arsenal, launching just 21 total shots behind the arc. Whereas the Thunder, who don’t have nearly the shooting prowess Golden State does, hoisted 28 3-pointers, hitting just eight while essentially shooting themselves out of the game.

The Warriors had no such problem, especially with that ever efficient guy Durant now on their sideline.

If anything their problem is Durant not shooting enough, but according to Kerr he’s shooting just right:

“If he gets 40 points, 16 shots is perfect. I think that’s a good ratio.”

Up Next

After playing at Oracle the last four games the Warriors now embark on a four-game road trip with their first matchup against the Houston Rockets Friday. The Rockets are responsible for one of the Warriors six loses this year when they knocked off Golden State in a double-OT thriller December 1.

Notes

The Warriors won their seventh straight regular season home game against the Thunder Wednesday. And have won seven of the last eight meetings overall. … Klay Thompson shot just 1-of-2 from the line against the Thunder. For as much of a sharpshooter as he is, Thompson has been struggling with free throws as of late, shooting just 9-of-16 for 56 percent over his last six games. … Thompson was questionable to play after traveling to see his ill grandfather. But Thompson arrived to the arena roughly an hour before tip and started the game. … Shaun Livingston may not be putting up the numbers of Durant but has been just as efficient. He shot 4-of-8 from the field today, which is the 10th straight game he has shot 50 percent or better from the field.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.