GAMERECAP

Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors Game Recap – Jan. 15, 2015

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@thunder-nba.com

When a team plays together, has one another’s back and plays for each other, basketball truly becomes a game again, it’s just fun. For Thunder, that’s what its win on Friday night was all about.

The Thunder snagged control of the game over the Golden State Warriors in the second quarter then ran away in the fourth quarter. Between a battling defensive effort and a selfless offensive flow, the Thunder secured a 127-115 victory over one of the best teams in the NBA, sending the faithful at Chesapeake Energy Arena home happy.

“We stuck to what we do, our principles,” Durant said. “We didn’t panic when they started hitting shots. We just went back down and executed.”

It was a game of runs throughout the night, but the Thunder seemed to have a response each time in the second half, pushing the lead back out to a comfortable margin after each Warriors burst. The final haymaker by the Thunder came mid-way through the fourth quarter, when Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka combined to create four buckets in a two-and-a-half minute span, while the Warriors only scored three points.

The two-man game resulted in an Ibaka dunk, three-pointer, layup and old-fashioned three-point play, and gave the Thunder a 119-106 edge with 3:15 remaining, sealing the victory. Ibaka scored a career-best 14 fourth quarter points to tie his career-high of 27 points on the evening, while Westbrook racked up a career-high 17 assists to go with an incredible, box score stuffing 15 rebounds, 17 points and four steals.  

“Russell was all over the floor,” Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought there was two of him out there, the way he was rebounding and moving our offense forward.”

“It was a tremendous game as far as controlling it and playing defense and rebounding,” Durant said of Westbrook’s evening. “He always knows he can get better.”

While Westbrook was the engine that kept the car moving, the Thunder was able to shift to multiple different gears during the game, getting huge contributions from Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow and Reggie Jackson. Most important, however, was the near-perfect marksmanship of Kevin Durant, whose 36 points on 14-for-18 shooting was not only incredibly efficient, but also timely.

As the Thunder took control of the game, Durant caught the ball on the move rather than sitting down in a post-up situation where the Warriors could double team. With his ball-handling, length and accuracy, Durant was nearly impossible to stop. When the Warriors loaded up to Durant, the Thunder was able to swing the ball quickly to the other side of the floor, creating opportunities to attack for players like Waiters, who scored 21 points of to lead the bench unit to 42 points.  

“You have to make the best play,” Waiters said. “You’re not always going to have a shot, so you make the best play for your teammate. I just try to be aggressive, draw the defense and kick-out. Or if I have a shot or if it’s mano-y-mano with my guy, I have to do what I do.”

Second Quarter Run Provides Spark

The Thunder gave up 35 points in the first quarter to the ever-explosive Warriors, but in the second quarter, it clamped down and went on a crucial run that shaped the game moving forward. Trailing 51-47 with 6:31 left in the quarter, the surge started with a Westbrook steal that led to a Durant mid-range jumper, then Reggie Jackson corralled an offensive board and soared through the lane for a dunk.

After a Warriors timeout, the Thunder forced a miss and Durant found Westbrook for a dunk. Another steal, this time by Durant, led to a Westbrook to Jackson dish for a three-pointer. Durant and Klay Thompson traded buckets, but Durant then responded with a dunk before the Thunder forced seven straight misses and then sealed the run with a steal by Westbrook, who dished to Durant for a dunk to make it a 63-53 Thunder lead.

When it was all said and done, it was a 15-2 burst that was a momentum changer and allowed the Thunder to push forward and keep control of the game. From there, the Thunder held off every run the Warriors made, and never relinquished the lead.

“There were a few moments of the game that it was a game of runs,” Brooks said. “Tonight our shots were falling and we did a good job making them miss some of their shots.”

Stats of the Night

17 - Assists for Russell Westbrook, a career-high, to go with 17 points and 15 rebounds for his first triple-double of the season

27 - Points for Serge Ibaka tying a career-high, on 12-for-18 shooting, including 14 points in the fourth quarter

36 – Points for Kevin Durant on 14-for-18 shooting, with 32 of those points coming in the first three quarters

The Final Word

“We were just making the best pass and most importantly, we were having each other’s back on the defensive end. It’s fun. You enjoy it. It’s a great thing to be a part of and if we play that way, we’re a tough team to beat.” – guard Dion Waiters

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