We might not see a more entertaining game all year…
* This was a classic. A good old-fashioned shootout. A barnburner in the Bay.
* It doesn’t even matter who won or lost, what flaws were exposed or how much deficient defense was on display. Thursday’s contest between the Thunder and Warriors was all about fun, a feel-good night of basketball in mid-November. As the saying goes, if you don’t like this, you don’t like NBA basketball. This one, Game 8 of 82, will be hard to top.
* “It was a great NBA basketball game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “It was playoff intensity in November. It was a great crowd, great atmosphere. They’re a great team. Couldn’t ask for a better game. Unfortunately, somebody had to lose.”
* Russell Westbrook did everything he possibly could to prevent it from being the Thunder. He was the best player on the floor all night and hit the biggest shot of the game’s first 47 minutes, 57 seconds. His go-ahead, 29-foot 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left to play lifted the Thunder from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit and gave OKC a one-point lead.
* “He’s a big-game player, man, and he had it going all night,” said Kevin Durant. “As soon as he let it go, it looked good.”
* But there was time left.
* Enough time for Andre Iguodala to shake free from an overplaying Thabo Sefolosha, haul in an inbounds pass near the right sideline, turn and squeeze off a fadeaway jumper that splashed straight through the net. Game.
* That was a great shot,” said Brooks. “He made a tough shot over a contested hand and, unfortunately, it went in.”
* Sefolosha was satisfied with his defense. “Out of 10 of them, I don’t know how many he’s going to make,” he said. “I like our chances with that shot.”
* Iguodala shaking Sefolosha was the key to the whole play. It created ample space for Klay Thompson to inbound the ball with no resistance, for Iguodala to catch it cleanly and for him t go into his shot with rhythm.
* “He has a high basketball IQ,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of Iguodala. “He read it, reacted, stayed patient, got the catch and made an incredible shot.”
* Iguodala: “Those are the moments when your mind is just racing. When Klay threw the pass, I was thinking I could get to the basket. As soon as the ball hit my hands, my feet were set just to catch, turn around and shoot — something I worked on a lot throughout my career. The situation was there and everything just worked out.”
* What a win this would have been for the Thunder. It was the second night of a back-to-back, a second straight game without its starting center in the arena and OKC stared at a 106-92 deficit with seven minutes left to play.
* The fact that the Thunder even clawed back into this ballgame is reason for optimism. Nobody could or should have hung their head after this one.
* A couple of things really kept the Thunder from taking this one. 1) Turnovers. 2) Poor rebounding. 3) Durant going cold in the second half. 4) Poor perimeter defense. I could write 1,000 words about all four. They were that critical.
* OKC’s turnovers resulted in a 20-point point discrepancy. The Thunder coughed it up 19 times. The Warriors had just seven turnovers. Golden State scored 29 points off the Thunder’s turnovers. OKC scored just nine points off the Warriors’ giveaways.
* In the third quarter, when the Warriors broke a 62-62 tie at halftime and opened up an 11-point lead, Golden State turned six Thunder turnovers into 13 points.
* Durant had as many turnovers as points (two) in the third quarter and took responsibility for his team’s ball security problems. “I’m terrible in that area, and it’s contagious,” Durant said. “I’m the leader. I can’t go out there and get five turnovers a game. My teammates see that and they think they can be lax with the ball. I just can’t do that. I’m the leader, man. It’s contagious.”
* In the past five games, the Thunder has averaged 19 turnovers, which have led to 22.4 points.
* Question: how do the Warriors come in averaging a league-worst 20 turnovers but the Thunder forces them into only seven?
* The final box score suggests the Thunder dominated the boards, winning 48-31. But that’s not at all indicative of what happened here tonight. OKC held an eye-popping 16-3 advantage on the glass after one quarter, thanks to the Thunder’s lights out shooting to start the game. There just weren’t but six defensive boards available for the Warriors to get, and the Thunder gobbled up four of them. In the final three quarters, the Thunder edged the Warriors, 32-28, in rebounding.
* The fourth quarter hurt most. That’s when the Warriors collected six of their nine offensive rebounds. That. Can’t. Happen. Even though the Warriors didn’t burn the Thunder as much as they could have with second-chance points, the opportunities alone thwarted Thunder chances, made OKC’s defense work harder and, of course, killed precious time off the game clock.
* As fun and exciting as the combined 23 made 3-pointers were, the Warriors’ success from beyond the arc became the latest sign of trouble for the Thunder in that department.
* The Thunder came into the game allowing 27.1 3-point attempts on average, second most in the league. The sight alone of teams feeling comfortable enough to shoot so many suggested that there was a problem. Some of that is a result of the Thunder’s defensive philosophy of clogging the paint and closing out on shooters. The idea being that contested 3s are better than point-blank buckets. But good 3-point shooting teams like the Warriors make you pay. And they did tonight.
* Golden State made its first five 3-pointers and drained six of eight in the first quarter.
* Durant was asked how he liked the way the Thunder defended the 3-point line tonight. His reply: “You trying to be sarcastic? It was sh***y. They made 14 out of 23 3s. It was sh***y.”
* In fairness to the Thunder’s perimeter defense, some of the Warriors 3s were just ridiculous.
* Durant disappeared in the second half. I’d have to go back and watch exactly what happened to see if it was something the defense was specifically doing. But it was alarming. Much of it had to do with Westbrook taking the lead role in the third and Durant taking a backseat. But when it was time to turn it on, Durant didn’t.
* After starting 4-for-4, KD missed his next seven shots. Five of those came when the Warriors were constructing their 11-point, third-quarter lead. Durant had one field goal in the second half. It was a big one, a 3 that pulled the Thunder within eight with 5:31 left to play, but he needed to be better. He scored just seven points in the final 24 minutes.
* Durant: “I wasn’t aggressive enough. Russ did have it going, and when somebody’s got it going like that it’s kind of hard to take the ball out his hands. I just got to be better. I just got to be better. No excuses, man. I got to make shots. I got to put pressure on the rim, on the defense, get to the free throw line. I just have to be better.”
* Foul trouble saddled Durant late in the third quarter and into the fourth. He picked up his fourth foul with 2:22 left in the third, but Brooks left him in. I thought that was a bad move. The Thunder trailed by only six and could have closed the quarter with KD on the bench. Fortunately, for the Thunder, the Warriors looked to exploit the smaller Reggie Jackson on Harrison Barnes rather than continuing to attack Durant with Iguodala in an attempt to give Durant his fifth foul.
* Brooks then had the nerve to trot Durant back out there to start the fourth quarter. I couldn’t believe it. I could barely get my tweet posted reminding that KD had four before he was whistled for his fifth. It came just 14 seconds into the period and forced Durant to the bench. He returned with 8:54 left to play and the Thunder trailing by 11.
* Got to give credit to Durant for his passing tonight, though. He had a team-high eight assists. Two of them came in the final 3 1/2 minutes, the first resulted in a 3 by Thabo that brought the Thunder within three, and the second was on Westbrook’s go-ahead bucket.
* I think tonight was the first time in eight games that Brooks subbed Durant out before Westbrook. Brooks sat KD with 3:23 left in the first quarter and brought him back with nine seconds left in the period. Durant then played with the second unit to start the second period. That is definitely the first time this season that Durant flanked the B Team at the start of the second quarter. It’s nothing new. Brooks supplemented the second team with KD throughout much of last season. But this tonight was another small example of how Brooks has been very experimental with his lineups, rotations and minute distribution early this season. He’s evolving nicely in that area.
* When Durant picked up his fifth foul and had to sit, I thought Brooks should have brought Westbrook back right then. He didn’t reinsert Russ until 8:54 remained, the same time KD checked back in.
* Steven Adams picked up two fouls in his first four minutes tonight. Hasheem Thabeet went in for him, and he promptly did the exact same thing. Rough night for Thunder centers.
* This game wasn’t very conducive to Adams. Not yet at least. Still, you can see in the last three games how he’s going to struggle with ups and downs this year.
* If ever there was a game for Jeremy Lamb to let it fly this was it. And he did, taking nine shots, seven of them 3-pointers. He finished with nine points.
* I really liked how the Thunder guards battled bigger players on the block. Lamb, Westbrook and Jackson all had a shot at Barnes. And Jackson had an isolation on Draymond Green. They weren’t always successful. But you really see how the Thunder competes on every possession on those mismatches. They gave it everything they had.
* You can’t make this stuff up. Durant shoved Andrew Bogut with 6.8 seconds remaining in the first half, or 0.6 seconds from the same time the Serge-Ibaka-Blake Griffin-Matt Barnes shoving match started one night earlier. Durant drew a technical foul for his actions and, surprise, surprise, stayed in the game.
* The Thunder lost this game despite shooting (28-14) and making (24-12) twice as many free throws as the Warriors.
* The Thunder lost this game despite shooting more free throws, shooting 51.3 percent (a higher percentage than Golden State), out-rebounding the Warriors and scoring 115 points.
* Golden State attempted just one foul shot in the second quarter…and it came by way of Durant’s technical foul.
* Reggie is an incredible finisher around the rim. That’s it. There’s no larger context. The dude is just an amazing finisher at the basket.
* Ibaka is playing his tail off. I’ll write more Friday about how he’s becoming the reliable third scorer the Thunder sought this season. But he’s looking like a completely different player than we’ve seen. He had a career-high 27 points with a game-high 13 rebounds and three blocked shots tonight. And for the first time, I looked at him and thought “All-Star.”
* Up next: at Milwaukee on Saturday.