OAKLAND, Calif. —A glitch on the scoreboard inside Oracle Arena at the start of the fourth quarter delayed play for several minutes Tuesday night.
Fittingly, an absurd amount of points was the problem. The Thunder was listed to have 191 points to Golden State’s 93 going into the final period.
It only felt like that many.
And that was the problem for the Thunder. By no means was this Oklahoma City’s preferred style of play. The Thunder is supposed to be a defensive-minded bunch, with ample discipline to avoid getting sucked into speed traps like this.
But playing on the second night of a back-to-back that saw the first game require overtime, the Thunder simply lacked the proper focus to stick to its principles.
Yet, the best team in the NBA just keeps on winning.
The Thunder stole a 119-116 shootout this time, bringing its league-best record to 20-5.
“It was a great game for the fans,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “It’s not the way that we anticipated it going into the game. But sometimes you have to win different ways. And our guys never gave up. Golden State was on fire.”
Kevin Durant shook off a slow start to score a team-high 33 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Thunder. His 18-foot bank shot from the left elbow off an inbounds pass from James Harden served as the go-ahead bucket, giving the Thunder a 117-116 lead with lead with 14.2 seconds remaining.
Durant admitted afterward that he didn’t call glass.
Monta Ellis missed a 3-pointer at the other end, and Russell Westbrook provided the final margin by canning two free throws with 1.1 seconds left to play.
The Thunder improved to 11-4 on the road, 2-1 on this five-game road trip and 6-1 in games decided by four points or less.
“That’s the sign of a good team. That’s the sign of maturing, because it’s a fine line between winning and losing,” said reserve center Nazr Mohammed.
Westbrook, who did the heavy lifting offensively early on, added 31 points with seven assists. Daequan Cook made five of six 3-pointers for 17 points, and Harden added 19 points and seven assists off the bench.
Obviously, with those numbers, offense wasn’t the issue. The Thunder’s defense was as deficient as it’s been all year. And even in victory, performances such as these can be troubling.
Oklahoma City allowed the Warriors to break their own opponent high for points in a game, previously 109 in an 11-point loss in this same building on Jan. 27. And Golden State shot 55 percent, narrowly missing the opponent high for field-goal percentage (56.3 percent) set by Clippers inside the Staples Center on Jan. 30.
For the fourth time in the past six games, the Thunder gave up at least 30 points in the opening period, yielding 35 to the Warriors.
“We had a tough one (Monday) night,” Durant said. “And sometimes you think about it a little bit and bring it to the next game. Just how intense that game was; how emotional that game was and everything that happened, we kind of brought it here a little bit and we started off too relaxed. They hit us in the mouth early.”
Ellis led the charge with a career-high 48 points on 18-for-29 shooting. It broke Tony Parker’s scoring record for an opposing Thunder player this season. Parker had 42 last Saturday in San Antonio. Ellis connected on 12 of 17 shots in the first half and had registered 40 point in 26 minutes.
“We didn’t have any answers for (Ellis),” Brooks said.
Given the circumstances, the Thunder was just glad to get out of town with a win.
“We executed our plays at the end well,” Brooks said. “Even the ones that we missed, they were good looks. And that’s what you want as a team, to have growth in all areas of the game. Some areas are going to be slower than others. But I thought tonight, we did execute down the stretch. We got good looks and made big shots.”
The Thunder led 59-57 at halftime, but Golden State started the second half with a 13-5 spurt that put the Warriors ahead 70-64 in the first four minutes of the third period.
That’s about when it turned into a 3-point shootout.
Over the final seven minutes of the third quarter, both teams combined to shoot 13 3-pointers. The Thunder converted five of its nine hoists, helping it whittle down a deficit that grew to be as large as 12 to two. The teams combined to make 20-of-47 3-pointers for the game.
“You’re going to get wins like this,” Mohammed said. “It’s not always going to be pretty. You’re happy to get wins like this and not go home with losses you feel like you should have won. We didn’t play great. We gave up way too many points. Our defense in the pick-and-roll wasn’t as good as it’s going to be. But we won, we’re going to take it and we’re going to move on to (Sacramento).”
The Warriors had a chance to tie it on a last-second shot. But Durant blocked a corner 3-point attempt by Brandon Rush to seal the win.