For a 17-36 team, the Oklahoma City Thunder certainly play tough against the Golden State Warriors at home. Led by rookie Josh Giddey and linebacker/shooting guard Luguentz Dort, the Thunder cut the lead to a scant five points late, before the Splash Brothers took care of business, with a little help from the Ground-Bound Mound of Rebound. Klay Thompson nailed a 27-footer, and after a huge defensive effort from Kevon Looney, Klay hit a second dagger to end things, part of his team-leading 21 points on the night. The Warriors won their ninth straight game, to move to 41-13 on the season.
Just to twist the dagger, Steph Curry hit a very long three over Giddey on the next possession, after Jordan Poole hustled his way to an offensive rebound. Giddey said, “I tried to contest the best I can, but he’s been doing that for years...If I did it again I’d probably play the exact same defense.”
Curry finished one rebound shy of a triple-double with 18 points, ten assists, and nine rebounds, on a night where he mainly made plays for his teammates. He had three of the worst turnovers you’ll ever see very early in the game, but settled down with seven dimes and zero turnovers in the second half. Chef Curry also cooked the Thunder when they sent doubles, with both late Klay triples coming as a result of all of OKC’s defensive attention on him. He also grappled with center Derrick Favors for a loose ball, and forced a jump ball. He did not win the tap.
For Oklahoma City, Giddey was impressive, scoring 16 points and adding 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Wearing a clear plastic mask to protect his broken nose, Dort was OKC’s leading scorer with 26 points, looking relentless on his drives to the basket, playing physical defense on Curry, and nabbing three steals. He probably should have relented a little from his outside shooting, where he was just 3-12 on the night. Dort’s most spectacular play came on the sequence that sparked the Thunder’s comeback, where they nabbed five offensive rebounds, the last one a monster putback by Dort that briefly looked like it sent Steph Curry to the morgue.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was out for the Thunder, but OKC fought hard without their best player, and the SGA-Giddey-Dort combo could very very solid very, very soon for them. Another young guy, Darius Bazley, had 20 points and eight rebounds in a very strong effort. These guys are going to pick swap their way into the playoffs pretty soon, maybe as early as next year.
Andrew Wiggins had 13 of his 15 points is the first half, part of a season-long early scoring trend for him. It makes sense: With Klay back, he’s the third or even fourth option in crunch time, so he’s getting his shots in early. Still, the Warriors would probably like a slightly higher level of aggressiveness after the break - maybe the orange slices and Capri Suns at halftime make him logy. Wiggins also had five boards, a steal, and a block. Kevon Looney continued his stellar play as the Warriors defensive anchor, with eight points, seven rebounds, a block, and two steals. Jordan Poole was a fantastic playmaker off the bench, delivering as many assists (8) as he had field goal attempts.
Poole was a particularly steadying force in the first quarter, coming in six minutes into the game with the Warriors down 15-7, after four turnovers. He immediately found Gary Payton II for a triple, then hit Jonathan Kuminga for a dunk and a layup late in the quarter. Overall, Poole’s eight assists all went for layups, dunks, and three-pointers, a grouping that would delight analytics guys. And apparently, stat sheet aficionado Klay Thompson.
The Poole-Kuminga combo continues to be a winning one off the bench for Golden State. Poole found Kuminga for a few easy buckets, while Kuminga hit Poole and annihilated his man on a screen that got Poole a dunk.
Overall, Kuminga had 16 points and a career-high 4 assists. He’s averaging 17.7 points on 61% shooting the last three games. Steve Kerr seems to be trusting him more, playing him over twelve straight minutes between the first and second quarters. In that stretch, the Warriors went from six points down to seven points up on the Thunder, and what started as a sluggish game had been injected with energy and so, so many dunks.
Alley oop maestro Andre Iguodala returned after an eight-game absence for a masterful six-minute stretch in the second. He hit a three, got two rebounds, an assist, and a steal before leaving with back tightness. Overall he was +8. Kerr says Iguodala is feeling better today, adding “This is what happens when you get older.” It’s probably a good thing that the Warriors are being cautious. In Andre’s last game before this, Kerr rode him for 32 minutes - and then he missed the next three weeks.
Otto Porter Jr. also returned after three-game absence due to his own back tightness, He started, and had just two points in a quiet effort. But why push him when there’s a 19-year-old freight train made of muscles on the bench? The Warriors’ front court remains banged-up, with back injuries felling Nemanja Bjelica as well, one reason OKC out-rebounded the Warriors, 50-34. We should see more Juan Toscano-Anderson in the next week, who was limited to a 6.7-second stint as a late-quarter defensive stopper in this one. He did get the stop!
In conclusion, a somewhat sluggish Warriors team took care of business in a classic trap game, and are now 41-13 with the NBA’s top point differential (+8.3). It’s their best record after 54 games since their last title season in 2017-18, when they also went to 41-13 after a game against Oklahoma City. Next up is the Utah Jazz, who are also on a winning streak despite missing their DPOY big man, Rudy Gobert.