Nothing was going right for the Warriors on the road. Coming into tonight they had lost 10 straight in Oklahoma City. In the first half, Andrew Bogut and Leandro Barbosa were lost to injury, Bogut to an orbital contusion (read: eye injury) and Barbosa to a sprained knee. (They did not return and their status for Tuesday at Miami is uncertain.)
Repeatedly, the Warriors couldn't finish at the basket, missing three wide-open dunks tonight. In the second half, Stephen Curry was held without a basket and Klay Thompson had only one score -- they combined for just seven points in the half.
But it was all okay. The Warriors had Marreese Speights, and he helped them to an ugly 91-86 victory.
"Mo [Marreese] Speights, again, was ridiculous," Coach Steve Kerr said. "It's a reminder to the rest of the guys: Stay ready."
Kerr called Speights the "early favorite for Sixth Man of the Year."
Speights continuously and almost single-handedly kept the Thunder at bay, even while Curry and Thompson were stifled in the second half. He erupted for a season-high 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting, hitting jumpers, getting to the foul line, and finishing at the rim all game long. After Oklahoma City had taken the lead in the third quarter, his clutch shots gave the Warriors the lead right back, an advantage they did not relinquish for the remainder of the game. And his fourth-quarter buckets helped increase the Warriors' lead.
For the first half, Golden State was carried by the Splash Brothers and Speights. Curry pounced on OKC early with 12 first-quarter points, and Thompson went to work in the second quarter. Klay had four three-pointers in the second quarter alone, and ended the half as the high scorer with 16. Despite shooting just 40% from the field, the Warriors led by five at the half.
The second half was more of the same: tight-knit, gritty basketball. The refs put away their whistles for the most part and let the teams play, and the result, to be kind, was a defensive battle. The Warriors only had 10 turnovers for the night, but they missed shots at the basket and threw away some critical possessions. Serge Ibaka was a powerful rim protector all game long -- five blocks tonight, including destructions of dunk attempts by Festus Ezeli and Speights.
Golden State was buoyed by its defense once again. This unit is so deep on the perimeter, now that Curry has become serviceable on that end; the Warriors have him, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston and Barbosa to throw at opposing guards and wings. The Warriors held the Westbrook- and Durant-less Thunder to just 35% shooting; they have the lowest field goal percentage allowed in the NBA so far this season. While this is not a shocker due to the Thunder personnel, it was important to see the Warriors show up again defensively to set the tone for the road trip.
Warrior Wonder: Marreese Speights
Duh. This dude was the only sustainable offense in the second half. He's had a reinvigorated year under Steve Kerr thus far, and it's reassuring to see him not be a black hole on offense. Speights not only scored the ball but had multiple assists, and was the fulcrum for the offense tonight with Bogut out. Oh, and he also drew another charge. For the Warriors to be a championship contender, they must have guys outside of Curry producing offensively. If Marreese Speights can indeed be a consistent scorer off the bench, that will be huge going forward for the Dubs.
Moe buckets— klay thompson (@KlayThompson) November 24, 2014
Up Next: Tuesday at Miami Heat
The Warriors look to make it six victories in a row on Tuesday as they play in Miami. This will be the first game of a back-to-back, and the Warriors could continue their winning streak against a Heat team that shoots the ball efficiently but whose defense is below-average. In a contrast of styles, Golden State plays at the fastest pace in the league, while Miami crawls up and down the floor; it will be interesting to see at what pace Tuesday's game is played. The Warriors have a real chance to win all five games on this trip. Now that would be a real statement to the rest of the NBA.