The Warriors leaned heavily on their biggest stars to wrangle a physical win away from the Thunder. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the OKC fanbase were the stars of the night.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant finally acquiesced and gave us the head-to-head battle that the media has been trying to sell us since August. Westbrook put up the volume-inflated numbers, but Durant ended the night as the breadwinner for the third straight meeting. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 52 to prop up Durant’s 34, and the Warriors survived Westbrook’s 47-point, 11-turnover hailstorm, 130 - 114.
The game was gritty and physical for nearly all of the 48 minutes. 71 free throws were taken tonight, less than 24 hours after the Warriors played in a 75 FTA game with the Memphis Grizzlies. The physicality was exacerbated, or spurred by, an angrily buzzing Oklahoma home crowd. Oklahomans showed up hours before tipoff to boo Durant’s warmups, and they would stay nearly three hours to boo Durant’s postgame interview.
Between these two bookending boo sessions, a fairly interesting game unfolded. The opening quarter was an oddity, as adrenaline from the Thunder led to erratic offense and amped-up, stifling perimeter defense; while the Warriors came out subdued due to their efforts to support Durant. The rule of thumb is that a team on a SEGABABA should jump on the opposition early due to their game rhythm, and the Warriors eventually found an early foothold on the scoreboard thanks to Klay “The Bane of Oklahoma” Thompson’s shooting (and some scrappy JaVale McGee possessions).
The game was won, however, in a four minute stretch to start the second quarter. With Westbrook, Durant, and Curry sidelined, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala diced the Thunder reserves and ballooned a five-point lead up to 15, a lead the Warriors would ultimately never allow to dwindle. Livingston in particular was at his surgical best, dissecting OKC with his passes and midrange jump shots.
The lead would vacillate between 26 and 12 throughout the remainder of the game. Westbrook and co. would be able to steal some momentum with a string of prayer threes from non-shooters being answered by the basketball gods; Klay and Steph and KD wouldn’t let the snowball roll into a gigantic avalanche. Draymond Green, a night after leaving his soul on the Memphis hardwood, gutted out another defensive revelation. Without Enes Kanter, and with Steven Adams unable to duplicate himself and play all 48 minutes, the Warriors escaped being brutalized on the boards (a mere -3 differential).
Westbrook lined up as a big man on Warrior FTs at least once. How he positively affects OKC’s reb% when he’s on the floor is a mystery of the tape.
It took until 5:30 in the second quarter for OKC fans to not boo on a Durant touch. It was a quick put-back layup while the Warriors were up on the Thunder by 18 points.
I was a little surprised at how ambivalent fans were to Steph, Klay, and especially Draymond. Maybe it was a conscious decision to single out Durant, but none of the fans wanted to blame the other members of the Hampton recruiting team as reason for Durant’s departure?
Tonight, Westbrook took more FTs (18) than Curry has taken in the four games since last Friday (17).