OAKLAND, Calif. — The play, throughout the league, is called floppy.
It’s a basic set but one that, with the right personnel, can be a bear.
It starts with a team’s two big men setting screens on each of the low blocks for wing players. The point guard then has a choice of which side to go to. The wing player who catches the pass then charged with creating a play.
This is what the Warriors used over and over again in their 104-99 win over the Thunder on Wednesday night inside Oracle Arena, and Oklahoma City either never made the proper adjustment or it simply didn’t matter.
“They got whatever they wanted,” said Kendrick Perkins. “They basically ran one play the whole night, the floppy play, and they got whatever they wanted. And (that’s on) all of us because either the big was getting the slip pass or they was coming off and shooting. We just wasn’t physical enough with them.”
Golden State (26-15) erased an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit by picking the Thunder apart with a well-oiled offense that featured precision, great timing, pinpoint passing and excellent read-and-react movement.
“They move the ball really well and they have a lot of shooters,” said Kevin Durant. “If you gamble or miss a play they make you pay for it.”
Durant scored a game-high 33 points with five rebounds and nine assists, and Kevin Martin added 16 points off the bench. But the Thunder couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers and an inability to get ample stops in the fourth quarter. It resulted in OKC falling to 33-10, becoming the last team in the league to have double-digit losses but now just percentage points ahead of San Antonio for the league’s best record.
The Thunder also fell to 2-2 on this current six-game road trip, which swings through Sacramento — possibly for the last time — before concluding in Los Angeles with a Sunday matinee game against the Lakers.
“We’ve been a little bit up and down on the trip,” said Nick Collison. “I thought we played well (Tuesday) night, but the other three games were not great. We just got to get back to it. The good thing about our team is we know what to do…We know when we’re not playing well, and we know what we need to do to play better so hopefully we’ll do that the next night out.”
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 31 points, scoring at will by slashing to the basket and spraying in jump shots. He made 11 of 27 shots and, oddly enough, had an off night, going 3-for-14 from beyond the arc. But it was Curry and Klay Thompson (19 points) who continuously applied pressure by curling off screens.
Warriors forward David Lee, who, like Curry is considered a top candidate as a reserve for the Western Conference All-Star team, complemented his point guard with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Lee added one assist, a pivotal one as he hooked up with Carl Landry to pull the Warriors within a point with 3:54 left to play after trailing by as many as eight in the fourth quarter.
Thompson hit a running hook on the Warriors next possession to give Golden State a 95-94 lead with 3:22 left to play. The Warriors never relinquished the lead.
It didn’t help the Thunder that Russell Westbrook had a horrid night and couldn’t shake his funk no matter how hard he tried. One night after scoring 26 points against the Los Angeles Clippers, Westbrook turned in a performance that was marred by missed shots, bad passes, turnovers and inconsistent if not altogether ineffective defense. Unlike he’s done so many times in the past, Westbrook failed to supply a big play on either end in spite of his struggles. By the end of the night he had missed 13 of 16 shots and had just four assists against six turnovers.
Durant, on the other hand, got off to a sensational start, scoring with ease and efficiency but still keeping the defense off balance with a surprisingly stellar show of facilitating. By halftime, Durant had amassed 18 points on only eight shots and had dished eight assists, two shy of tying his career high. He finished the night making 10 of 17 shots and 11 of 12 free throws.
But Durant’s lone miss from the foul line was a pivotal one. He had a chance to bring the Thunder within one with 37.5 seconds remaining but split the pair. Curry missed a wide open 3-pointer at the other end, allowing the Thunder to rebound the ball and call a timeout with 17.5 seconds remaining. But coming out of the timeout, Durant turned it over when his pass to Kendrick Perkins was intercepted by Curry.
“Our design was to get me a shot coming off toward the corner,” Durant explained. “But they had two on the ball. They left Perk. I just got to make a better read. I thought he was going to dive. But I got to hold onto that ball. That’s all on me. I can’t put Perk in that position. When I seen two on the ball it kind of caught me off guard. I got to be quicker on my toes. I got to make better plays.”
After being intentionally fouled by Durant, Curry made two free throws at the other end to push the Warriors lead to 103-99. Westbrook air-balled an off-balanced 29-foot 3-pointer and Warriors guard Jarrett Jack iced the game by splitting a pair of free throws at the other end.
“It came down to the last minute of the game, and anytime that happens we feel that we have a good chance to win the game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But they made more plays than us.”