The Warriors said it was just another game — and that’s exactly how they played.
For Oklahoma City, Tuesday night was a statement game at Oracle, and that statement was, “watch out.” The Thunder (31-24) lit up the defending champion Warriors (41-13) 125-105. And it felt like a 50-point blowout.
The Thunder’s two All-Stars handily outplayed the Warriors’ four. Russell Westbrook looked like a man on a mission to open the game. And that mission was to destroy everything in his path.
He scored 27 in just the first half, on an uncharacteristically efficient 12-of-19 from the field, and pushed the Thunder to a 70-57 lead at half.
Stephen Curry said usually the Warriors are built to withstand things like that, but not tonight:
“That was obviously helpful for them, but we can withstand that. Especially when it’s one guy dominating the ball and making plays, eventually if we just stick with the program and create some resistance over the course of 48. We talk about it all the time, we are good enough, talented enough and smart enough to withstand individual efforts like that. But you can’t do it when you turn the ball over or without creating some offensive thrust.”
The way Westbrook played was impressive, as was the 70 first-half points Oklahoma City used to light up the Warriors. But what might have been the most impressive was that they did all of it with Steven Adams playing just five minutes due to early foul trouble.
Adams is brute force personified and gives the Warriors absolute fits whenever they see him. Even with athletic freaks like Westbrook and Paul George, Adams is the player for whom the Warriors have zero answers. He would finish with 14 points and 10 boards and tossed aside any and every Warriors big that tried to keep him out of the paint.
The Thunder were also missing Carmelo Anthony — who tweaked his ankle just six minutes into the game — but that may have actually helped as Anthony was getting embarrassed by Draymond Green‘s defense early on.
But that was about the only positive thing anyone on the Warriors roster did Tuesday. Curry and Klay Thompson were both passive and looked rattled by the blitzing Thunder defense. They combined for 33 points, or one less than Westbrook scored himself.
Steve Kerr said that when the ball isn’t moving against the Thunder it’s not going to be a good night:
“They’re a good defensive team, we know that. They’ve got a lot of size and length, and if you try to go through them one-on-one you’re not going to have a lot of success. And it seemed like that’s what we were trying to do.”
Kevin Durant poured in 33 points but gave back all of that and more on defense, as George dominated their matchup, scoring a game high 38, while putting Durant on skates a few times and dunking the life out of Zaza Pachulia.
While Westbrook was on fire early, it was George who looked like the best player on the court the entire game. He forced six steals, while also draining six 3’s and answering any Warriors run with a basket.
Durant’s theme for the Warriors going forward is to keep it simple:
“I think we are just overthinking it, we just got to keep it simple. When we keep it simple and run plays that work for us and we hit the open man, we’ll be fine. Once we started to make a little run, we just started to play simple. We hit the roll man, we hit someone in the dunker spot and got a dunk or we hit a guy for a wide open 3. We can’t play from down, we can’t play down 15 because then we rush.”
Those runs were few and far between though as the Warriors didn’t just shoot themselves in the foot, they blew it up with a rocket launcher. They racked up 25 turnovers — most of them unforced — and allowed the Thunder to score 38 points off of them. It’s the second time they’ve turned the ball over 25 times in the last three games.
Kerr was unsurprisingly exasperated by his team’s inability to take care of the ball:
“Watching the Sacramento tape, it just seemed mostly carelessness. We watch every tape closely and monitor play calls and what we are running, what we’re not running. We try to determine if turnovers are coming from a certain action we run. But I have a feeling when I watch this tape it’s going to be the same as Sacramento, it’s going to be carelessness. Just not making the simple play and not making the extra pass.”
They also got absolutely nothing from their bench, led by David West, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. West may be the oldest but he looks the youngest on the court and was the only one of them that looked anywhere close to being a contributor.
With the trade deadline coming up, the Warriors front office will have to look closely at adding something to this anemic bench unit. The problem is they are short on assets, so this is the lineups they could be rolling with come playoff time.
That’s not bad considering the amount of success they’ve had, but as Tuesday night showed, it’s not the dominant team it once was.
The Warriors will get a day break before taking on old friend Harrison Barnes and the Dallas Mavericks Thursday. The Mavs (17-37) are currently tied for the worst record in the NBA.
This was the 300th career regular season game for Steve Kerr as head coach of the Warriors. Kerr took over in 2015 and has accumulated a 248-52 record since. … With two 3’s in Tuesday’s game, Klay Thompson has now hit more than 1,500 3’s in his career. Thompson is just the 28th player in NBA history to top that mark. … Since 2014-15, the Warriors are 43-7 following a loss during the regular season, which is the best mark in the NBA.