OAKLAND, Calif. — Things are looking pretty good for that top spot.
In what set up as a must-win game of sorts for the Thunder to stay in the driver’s seat in its quest to finish first in the Western Conference standings, Oklahoma City marvelously rose to the occasion, crushing Golden State 116-97 on Thursday night inside a rowdy Oracle Arena.
With the win, the Thunder moved a half game ahead of San Antonio with three left to play. Both teams will be in action Friday night, the Thunder concluding this three-game trip at Portland, while the Spurs host Sacramento.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 31 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Thunder. It was the second time in as many games that he finished two assists or less shy of recording his fourth triple-double.
“I just tried to come out there with a different edge, just leading my team in a different way,” Durant said. “No matter if my shots weren’t going down or I was turning the ball over, I just wanted to stay locked in and focused. Luckily my teammates got me going early.”
Kevin Martin made eight of 10 shots, including four of five 3-point attempts to finish with 23 points off the bench. It was the most the Thunder’s sixth man has scored since pouring in 24 against his former team, the Sacramento Kings, on Jan. 25.
Russell Westbrook chipped in 18 points with nine assists, Serge Ibaka added 17 points and seven rebounds and Thabo Sefolosha finished with 10 points, the fourth time in seven games that he’s scored in double figures. The Thunder, meanwhile, improved to 26-3 when five players score in double digits.
“Everybody was feeling good tonight,” Durant said.
Thursday’s balanced attack was a product of non-stop ball movement, which led to countless quality shots. The Thunder racked up 30 assists on its 42 made field goals and shot 50.6 percent for the game. OKC also drained 12 of 27 3-pointers, the fourth time in five games that the Thunder converted at least nine 3s.
“I loved the team effort,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Everything was about the team…Offensively, we were moving the ball.”
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 22 points and seven assists. Warriors forward David Lee finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jarrett Jack scored 19 points with four rebounds and six assists.
Golden State lost for just the fifth time in its last 11 games. The result dropped the Warriors to just a half game ahead of Houston for sixth place.
The Thunder took complete control of the game by outscored the Warriors 36-23 in third quarter. Durant scored 14 points with three rebounds and four assists while playing all 12 minutes.
A 9-2 run to start the third quarter turned the tide, turning a six-point halftime lead into a 13-point Thunder advantage less than three minutes into the period. Three Thunder players scored during the run, which ended with back-to-back 3-pointers by Sefolosha.
The Thunder never trailed by single digits the rest of the way and went on to lead by as many as 20.
Ibaka provided an early spark with scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking to help the Thunder build a 31-27 lead after the opening period. Ibaka scored 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the period, adding four rebounds and a monster block on a dunk attempt by Bogut. Of course, Ibaka unveiled his finger wag following the rejection.
The block, however, was as pivotal as it was pretty. It ignited both Ibaka and an 18-9 run, a stretch in which Ibaka supplied nine of his first-quarter points, four of which came on putbacks off his offensive rebounds. Ibaka’s seven other points came off set-ups by Westbrook, who dished five assists in the opening period. The Thunder finished the quarter with eight assists on its 13 baskets.
Oklahoma City took a 60-54 lead into the half after a second quarter filled with plenty more highlights. None were better than the sequence in the final two minutes that saw Westbrook come from behind to emphatically block a layup attempt by Curry before Durant finished a fast break at the other end with a soaring one-handed dunk that left the always-energized Oracle arena crowd in awe. Immediately after the tomahawk dunk, Durant motioned at his throat and clasped his hands together, a never-before-seen celebration from the scoring champ. Durant and Westbrook scored seven points apiece in the period, while Martin added eight.
“They got after it,” said Golden State coach Mark Jackson. “They did not want to see how the feeling out process was going to be. They hit hard and they hit early. We didn’t match it.”