The Warriors used the 3-point line to its advantage in its second consecutive matchup against the Thunder headlined by Steph Curry and his 46 points. The Thunder’s offense was unable to keep pace with the high-volume scoring of Golden State through four quarters.
Of the 37 points that the Warriors posted in the first quarter, Stephen Curry was responsible for 24 of them. The seven-time All-Star cashed in on five 3-pointers while going a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Curry’s scoring outburst served as one of the two major catalysts to the Thunder’s early deficit on Saturday. The other was the 13 fast break points that Golden State recorded in the first 12 minutes of action.
The Thunder’s offense worked to keep pace early on. Thunder forward Darius Bazley posted seven first quarter points as fellow second-year player Lu Dort sank three 3-pointers of his own in the first half on the way to 12 first-half points.
In the second quarter, it was Draymond Green and the Warriors’ second unit that upheld the 3-point shooting barrage with a combined six made triples. Meanwhile, the Thunder received a positive boost from its reserves as both Kenrich Williams and Svi Mykhailiuk stepped into the game after not playing in the previous matchup on Thursday.
Mykhailiuk led all Thunder scorers with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and was one of three bench players who scored in double figures alongside Williams and two-way forward Jaylen Hoard who both registered 13. It was Williams who provided the early boost with seven first half points to go alongside four rebounds in just nine minutes of action.
“He's ready to compete as always,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said of Williams. “That's his calling card at this point. He brought great toughness to the game and gave us good energy in that first half especially, then finished the game the right way. He just continues to be unbelievably consistent and reliable regardless of what we asked him to do - what role, what position. He's been impressive and tonight was no different.”
The Thunder’s chances of a comeback were stymied in the third quarter as the Warriors erupted on run that swelled the lead handily out of reach. Behind the second 20-point quarter the game from Curry who posted 22 in the third frame, the Warriors outscored the Thunder 33-19 as OKC’s offense was unable to generate consistency on the offensive end.
“[Curry] had it going tonight,” said Daigneault. “I thought there were some where we could have controlled it a little bit more with our pressure on him, making him drive. But some of those are tough. You just gotta tip your hat and obviously we didn't do enough tonight. He was excellent.”
For many young Thunder players, the mini-series against the Warriors was the first time going up against the likes of Curry and Golden State’s sharp shooting. This made every minute on the floor all the more valuable for OKC and in the fourth quarter, the Thunder reserves maintained that mentality to tie the Warriors 30-30 in the final frame and outscore Golden State’s reserves 52-46.
“It’s very important, especially with development because in this league you'll see a lot, you’ll see everything and the more game time experience that you get as a player, the better it makes you,” said third year wing Kenrich Williams.
Play of the Game
With just over two minutes left to play in the second quarter, the Thunder’s versatile forward Isaiah Roby jammed home an emphatic one-handed slam after taking it coast to coast in transition. The Dixon, Illinois native took on contact as he ascended to the basket which sent him to the free throw line to complete the monstrous 3-point play.
Stat of the Night27
As advertised, the Warrior’s 3-point shooting took center stage in its third and final matchup with the Thunder. While Curry registered 11 of his own, Golden State recorded 27 3-pointers at a 50 percent clip overall. For the Thunder’s young contingent, Saturday’s matchup was a valuable learning experience in defending high-level shooters and high-volume scorers for 48 minutes.
“It's really challenging just because they have a great shooter in Stephen Curry and also other guys that can space the floor,” said Hoard. “So just being able to matchup, they make you come out and really play defense far away from the basket. It's just tough to matchup with especially when they’re hitting like tonight. It's tough to guard but you just got to do your best to take them to the rim.”
Quotes of the Night
Svi Mykhailiuk: “We just gotta keep playing. We know what we're building here. We just have to be patient and keeping learning the game, keep playing hard and playing together. It's a 48-minute game. We gotta keep doing the things we emphasize every day and I think we'll be fine."
The Thunder will close out its final back-to-back of the season with a bus ride east to California’s capital to face the Sacramento Kings Sunday night. It will be the first of two matchups with Sacramento before the Thunder returns back to Chesapeake Energy Arena to close out the 2020-21 season with a pair of home games against the Jazz and the Clippers