Thunder Fades, Falls on the Road – OKC 80, GSW 112
OAKLAND – It was another battle between two of the Western Conference’s heavyweights, and both of the previous meetings were blowouts. This one went the other direction, but the style was the same.
The Thunder’s 112-80 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night was mostly over by the early stages of the fourth quarter, much like the Thunder’s two wins over the defending champions earlier this season. The first half was a back-and-forth battle, with a series of runs resulting in an intensity and focus from both squads that rivaled a playoff atmosphere.
The first quarter was a grinder. The Thunder shot just 4-for-20 to start the game, but stayed in it with offensive rebounds, racking up 10 second chance points. Due to four turnovers in the opening four minutes, the Warriors held a five-point lead after the opening frame. But a slow-burn 6-0 run for the Thunder held Golden State scoreless for a stretch of four minutes in the middle of the period and forced two Warriors timeouts.
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“The first half, considering the way our offense was going, we did a good job of staying the course, trying to be physical, trying to really grind the game because it was really a struggle for us because we couldn’t generate any points,” Head Coach Billy Donovan said.
Golden State responded after the second timeout, and ripped off seven points in a span of 60 seconds to re-energize itself and its home crowd. Three-pointers started to drop, and that opened up a string of backdoor cuts for layups and long rebounds for second chance points off of missed threes. The Warriors’ 18-6 run in the second gave the home team a 52-45 halftime lead. It was just an appetizer to its response in the third period.
“We had a hard time. We really did a great job in the first half and got really, really good looks,” Donovan said. “We were fortunate to be down by seven shooting the ball the way that we did in that half, and also having 10 turnovers.
After the Thunder rattled off 11 straight points early in the third quarter to re-take the lead for the final time in the night, Golden State punched back with a 9-0 burst to re-take the lead, then a backbreaking 14-0 spurt to end the third quarter. By that point the Thunder’s offensive woes had taken their toll, and the Warriors had all the juice.
“They mucked the game up a little bit and got some momentum after that,” forward Carmelo Anthony explained. “They shot the ball extremely well tonight and they won.”
“One of the things that does happen inevitably, when you’re not making shots and the ball’s not going in the basket, it takes a lot to come back down the floor and defend at a high level,” Donovan noted.
For the game the Thunder shot just 33 percent, including a 9-for-34 (26.5 percent) mark from the three-point line. While it was certainly a challenge to get any free space through the physical, clamping Warriors defense, the Thunder also simply just missed wide open looks. Once sequence that personified it was a trio of transition layups that all missed, on the same possession.
“We definitely got good looks,” point guard Russell Westbrook stated. “Sometimes you have nights like that where nothing falls. We’ll get ready for the next one.”
On the other end of the floor, the Warriors got hot from behind the arc, knocking down 17 threes to go with 47.2 percent shooting overall. More in control in the first half, the Thunder’s defensive rebounding struggled in the second, as it ended up losing the battle of the boards by 11, and ultimately gave up 19 second chance points, including 9 in the third quarter alone.
“Really that third quarter they had a lot of second chance opportunities. If you get multiple looks at the basket, eventually shots are going to go in,” forward Paul George reviewed. “That’s all it takes when you’re not in a shooting rhythm, to see the ball go in. That’s what happened. They got hot, and that was the game.”
In another dramatic flip from previous games, the Thunder’s defense was unable to win the turnover battle. After forcing over 20 Warriors miscues in the first two matchups, Oklahoma City coughed it up 10 times in the first half alone, and 16 times in the game, which led to 25 Warriors points compared to 16 Golden State turnovers that resulted in 18 Thunder points.
By the Numbers
12 – Rebounds for Russell Westbrook on the night, who also added 15 points, 7 assists and 2 steals
28 – Points in the paint for the Thunder, as the Thunder shot just 14-for-37 in the lane for the game compared to 18-for-30 by the Warriors
54-43 – Golden State’s rebounding advantage in the game, which included 12 offensive rebounds that led to 19 points
The Last Word
“Stay together, that’s it. Stay together through it all,” – point guard Russell Westbrook