In the second night of a tough road-home back-to-back, the Thunder met a Warriors team that was firing on all cylinders from the 3-point line. A lopsided third quarter and a 42-point performance from Steph Curry proved to be the deciding factor in Wednesday night’s matchup.
Immediately following a tough-fought game in the high-altitude of Salt Lake City against the number one team in the Western Conference, the Thunder boarded a flight back to the Oklahoma City and the Central Time Zone where they would meet the Warriors for the second night of a road-home back to back. Despite a strong start offensively for the Thunder, the Warriors headlined by Steph Curry’s 42 points, would take command of the game in the second and third quarters.
“We don’t want to use the back-to-back as an excuse. We’ve learned these lessons,” said Daigneault. “I thought we started the game really well, but we didn't sustain it for 48. So, some of that was us, but you’ve got to credit them. They really were sharp tonight, and I thought their foot was on the gas.”
In that first quarter, the Thunder missed its first three looks from the 3-point line until Svi Mykhailiuk stepped into a rhythm 3-pointer at the top of the key and opened up the Thunder’s shooting form behind the arc. After starting 0-for-3, the Thunder would finish the quarter going 4-of-6 from deep and posting 32 points on 57 percent from the field. Meanwhile, the Warriors also profited from the 3-point line going 6-of-12 in the first quarter on the way to a 36-point performance.
While the Warriors continued the onslaught from behind the arc to the tune of 39 points in the second quarter, the Thunder’s offense began to cool off. In order to generate shots, the Thunder looked to its tried-and-true downhill attack, remaining aggressive and looking to get to the paint.
The leading contributor in this area was Thunder forward Darius Bazley who, in his third game back after missing 16 with a shoulder contusion, showed no signs of fatigue or slippage in his 28 minutes of game time. In fact, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault praised the second-year forward for his increased sharpness and aggressiveness since his return. By the end of the night, Bazley tied his season high with 22 points on 10-18 from the field. All but two of his points came from inside the lane.
“He kept his foot on the gas. He drove the ball really well. He got to seams. He looks stronger on his drives,” said Daigneault. “He’s kind of improved from that coming off the injury. He looks a little sharper. He looks a little stronger with his finishes, stronger with the ball, so we gotta keep building on it.”
One other major beneficiary of the Thunder’s downhill attack was Moses Brown who finished the night with 18 points and 12 rebounds marking his second consecutive double-double and his ninth of the season. Outside of the assisted buckets, Brown made a steady living on the glass where he remained active around the 6-foot-9 stature of Kevon Looney and played a major role in the Thunder’s 22-17 advantage in second chance points and its 70-50 advantage in the paint.
“I thought he brought great energy again tonight. Even through the lows of the game he burned himself out tonight, so he was a positive,” said Daigneault. “He's got to keep growing. These are important games for him and important experiences, but it was good to see him kind of the last two nights bounce back.”
The Thunder went into the half trailing by 21 points after Golden State’s highly-efficient second quarter. In the third, the Warriors responded with a 50-point quarter behind the sharpshooting Curry who finished the game with 11-made 3-pointers. Twenty-five of Curry’s 42 points came in the third quarter where he went a perfect 8-for-8 from the field including 6-for-6 from the 3-point line. Behind the efforts of Curry, Golden State built up its largest lead of the night and put the Thunder completely out of reach in the third frame.
“This is part of playing the NBA. There’s going to be elite players in any year in the NBA and on multiple nights you're gonna have to go against elite talent and all-time talent,” said Daigneault. “So you’ve got to understand how potent those guys are the attention to detail and the effort and the focus that it requires just to keep them in check, you're never gonna shut those guys out. And it's a good lesson. I'd rather have gone through the experience than not.”
Play of the Game
Bazley’s 22-point night included an eye-catching one-handed slam in the fourth quarter. As the 6-foot-8 forward accelerated down the middle of the floor, he was met with Warriors guard Nico Mannion at the top of the key. Bazley utilized a simple in and out to get into the lane where he elevated and threw down an uncontested right-handed slam.
Stat of the Night72
Despite the Thunder holding the edge in paint points and second chance points, the Warriors eclipsed the Thunder from behind the arc. After knocking down 23 3-pointers in their previous game on Monday, the Warriors backed up the performance with 24 on Wednesday while shooting at an overall 51-percent clip from deep. 72 of the Warriors’ 147 points came from behind the arc compared to 21 from the Thunder.
Quotes of the Night
“It's just about being ready and staying engaged. These games are 48 minutes long. We have a lot of them so it's easy to just get lost in the movement and just the long season. It's all about the preparation and just being mentally locked in for every single game.”–Moses Brown “The thing with all these lessons is you got to learn them and you got to apply them forward and that's our challenge. We've got to make sure that these lessons aren't going on learned and that we're progressing forward as a result of them because obviously these games are fun. So we've got to be able to redeem something out of it and grow from it.”
It was a quick trip home for the Thunder who now embark on a long stretch of games away from Chesapeake Energy Arena. Six of the next seven games for OKC will be on the road starting with a trip to Motor City to take on the Pistons Friday evening at 6 p.m.