The previous two meetings between the Thunder and the Warriors have been filled with Russell Westbrook scowls and mean-mugs.
Mainly because Westbrook and Oklahoma City have dominated the Warriors, winning by an average of 18.5 points per game.
Saturday he was still scowling, but for an entirely different reason as the Warriors (46-14) waltzed to a 112-80 victory. And that’s not just a figure of speech, they actually danced all over and in the faces of the Thunder (34-27).
Steve Kerr thought it was a strong test for his rejuvenated team:
“They’re a great team and they’ve beaten us soundly a couple times, so you could tell our energy and effort was much better. It did feel like a playoff style game where you’re competing and everything is difficult. It’s a great test, it’s a test of your will, you have to stay with it, you can’t get down because you’ve missed six shots in a row.”
But it wasn’t just the scoring as the team finally locked up defensively, holding the Thunder to 33 percent shooting and 26 percent from deep. That helped mask the Warriors shooting woes in the first half, when the team couldn’t buy a bucket, especially Klay Thompson, who went 0-of-7 from deep before halftime.
Kerr said he knew his team would eventually start hitting shots though:
“I just think with our team, if we defend like that, we are going to breakthrough offensively at some point. It’s a 48-minute game and we got so many guys that can score, if we are defending and getting stops, we are eventually going to get into transition… I figured it was just a matter of time.”
The opposite was true for the Thunder though, as their superstars were held in total check throughout, with the trio of Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Westbrook entering halftime a combined 1-of-12 from deep. And until around three minutes left in the second quarter, the Thunder’s leading scorer was Raymond Felton with eight points in five minutes.
George would finish just 1-of-14 from the field for five points, and had just as many technicals as field goals made.
Durant said it is important for the Warriors to step up on the defensive end going forward:
“It was a good game for us to kind of gain some ground on that side of the ball. I think that was good for us. We have to build that consistency up, the start of next game has to be the same effort.”
Not only was the effort level back up but the joy was back to palpable levels.
Zaza Pachulia, who came off the bench for just the second time in his Warriors tenure shifted the momentum once he came on in the third quarter. His physicality on Steven Adams helped keep the big man off the glass, while ratcheting up the energy of everyone else on the court.
And Nick Young came off the bench to hit four 3’s including two at the end of the quarter when he celebrated right in front of the Thunder’s bench. That’s the old, arrogant Warriors that haven’t been seen in a long time.
Cocky Warriors back gg OKC pic.twitter.com/oGRQHu6QLR
— Sherwob Holmes (@World_Wide_Wob) February 25, 2018
Young 3 from a Dime by Steph pic.twitter.com/6b2iG2VObw
— warriorsworld (@warriorsworld) February 25, 2018
It finally looks like the Warriors are back to having fun, which means back to blowing the doors off teams.
And nothing was more telling of that then Westbrook breaking out his trademark scowl — only this time from the bench, as his team could only watch the Warriors explode.
The Dubs head out on a three-game road trip after their victory Saturday. First up is a trip to the Mecca, Madison Square Garden, Monday to take on the struggling Knicks, who are in full tank mode.
David Lee returned to Oracle for the first time as a retired player and was a guest of Joe Lacob. Lee played last season with the San Antonio Spurs before announcing his retirement November 19. He averaged 16.7 points and 9.3 rebounds as a member of the Warriors. … Draymond Green was assessed his 15th technical foul of the season in the second quarter. His next will result in a one-game suspension. … Green would also notch his 2,000 career assist Saturday, he’s now the 11th player in franchise history to reach that mark. He’s also just the second player in NBA history to reach 4,000 points, 3,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists, 600 steals and 450 blocks in 450-or-fewer games played. The only other player to do it is Alvan Adams.