Final Score: Thunder 114, Warriors 109
Points: Curry with 39, Durant with 28
Rebounds: Dorell Wright with 11, Green with 8
Assists: Westbrook with 13, Curry with 6
The Thunder got back on track tonight, winning at home in a game where they overwhelmed the Golden State Warriors for three quarters and then hung on in the 4th. It was a pretty good microcosm of the Thunder this year; it isn’t so much that they go through stretches where they play badly per se; it is more that they hit stretches where they seem to lose all focus and interest in playing, if not hard, then at least competently. And so it went tonight; the Thunder rewarded themselves for playing three very good quarters by taking the fourth one off.
And then there was Stephen Curry.
The Stephen Curry debate will never rise to the level of”Oden over Durant,” but boy, when you take a look at Curry up close, and in close proximity to James Harden, you begin to see Bill Simmons’ point a lot more clearly. To be sure, Harden had a pretty solid game coming off the bench – 12 efficient points with a few rebounds and steals thrown in. That’s good production from your backup SG. But then you look at Stephen Curry – 39 points on 14-20 shooting with six assists thrown in, and you think to yourself, that is the kind of player that justifies a top 10 pick. He along with Monta Ellis kept the Warriors in the game long past the point when they should have been a threat. My only conclusion, and I feel pretty secure about this, is that Harden is likely never going to have that kind of offensive performance, not now or ever, in the rest of his career. It isn’t fair to Harden, but it becomes more difficult not to slight him when he plays good but not great.
As far as the game goes and went, I liked a lot of what I saw in the first three quarters of play, and it’s really a shame that the Thunder couldn’t have even been tempted to at least try in the 4th.
What I liked:
- It was good to see Durant back in action and play a solid game. He got his 28 off of only 16 shots, shooting an even 50%. He also chipped in seven rebounds and three assists. He didn’t try to force the action, and I think that is both a credit to him and to Westbrook, who tried to get him involved and laid off his own offense a little bit (13 assists). Durant also was able to work in closer to the basket, and I liked how he was able to pass out of the post position. He ran a nice give-n-go with Westbrook late in the 4th which led to an “and-1” for Krstic after he put back Westbrook’s miss. That was probably the best possession in their 4th quarter collapse.
- 25 assists on 37 made field goals (which does not include the plays that led to 40 trips to the FT line). That’s good offensive flow.
- Ten steals for the team. The opportunities are usually there for a guard-heavy team, because a lot of their play is going to come on drive-and-dishes. These 10 steals led in part to 24 points off turnovers.
- 18 offensive rebounds. Granted, this total is slightly deadened by the team’s weaker defensive rebounding performance (GS had 18 offensive boards of their own), but even so, that’s good hustle.
Things that tasted like mustard and onions:
- We could just say, “everything that happened in the 4th.”
- More specifically though, the team, as noted by Durant, gave up some easy points early in the 4th and had a few turnovers, which began the shift in momentum. However, with eight minutes to go, the Thunder looked like they were trying to run out the clock. This might work in college ball, but in the pros there are simply too many talented players on the other side of the ball that can capitalize on this malaise.
- When a team is down in deep double digits in the 4th, the only chance they have to come back is by the leading team making the game longer. This is accomplished by taking shots early in the shot clock and fouling on the other end. Yeah, the Thunder did both of these with regularity.
- 39 points allowed in the 4th. Again, 39 points in the 4th. That amount is about three shades beyond being described as, “Unacceptable.”
“We’re not that good yet to be relaxed when we have big leads. We’ve got to keep fighting for 48 minutes. It’s a lesson learned for us.” – Durant
I really think it all is just a symptom of the unchangeable reality that the Thunder are still a very young team. Their team leaders are two confident and earnest guys who are also both under 25 years old. Take a look at the rest of the world; the only place you consistently find 22 year old men who are capable of leading and managing groups of other men are officers in our military. Much patience is still needed for Durant and Westbrook. There is still time, and they still want to get it right.
Did they learn their lesson, as Durant indicated? One thing is for sure – if they didn’t learn it, then there will be a re-test in the near future.
Next game: at Chicago, Monday December 6 at 8:00PM