The Thunder cut Golden State’s 21-point lead to two in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors staved off Oklahoma City’s comeback threat with quality late-game play.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 66 points, and the defending champions won their third straight game.
Curry’s 38-point, 12-assist, eight-rebound masterpiece highlighted the Warriors’ 128-120 victory in Oklahoma City. The Warriors (26-24) pulled out the win to head into February two games over .500.
Here are three takeaways from GSW’s win.
Successful late-game execution
The last time the Warriors found themselves in a close game, last Friday against Toronto, Golden State opted to go with Donte DiVincenzo over Jordan Poole. Poole’s late-game decision-making has bitten GSW multiple times, and it seems he’s lost at least some of the coaching staff’s trust.
Again, the Warriors benched Poole late in the game, but Steve Kerr brought him back for an offense and free throw shooting with less than a minute left.
Golden State led by five when Kerr ran out his traditional starting lineup: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney. The lineup that has waxed the league this year.
With a combination of unteachable feel on offense and stellar interior defense, that group expanded the edge to eight.
Key blocks from Looney, Wiggins and Green prevented the Thunder from making a late push. Looney and Thompson dunks off classic Warriors motion offense kept OKC two possessions away.
As much as Golden State has struggled to hold leads this year, it feels like the team may have found a more sustainable crunch time solution.
One of the most dynamic scorers of the game missed his first seven shots. It wasn’t just a cold shooting night; the Warriors sold out to stop Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Golden State baited Gilgeous-Alexander into taking midrange step-backs — not poor shots from him, but certainly tougher than when he gets all the way to the cup. The Warriors did a tremendous job staying in front of the young guard, preventing him from reaching the restricted area.
Andrew Wiggins and Jonathan Kuminga took the assignment most frequently and won the matchup. When Gilgeous-Alexander got Stephen Curry on a switch, the Warriors sent a help defender over to double and force it out of his hands.
On one possession late in the second quarter, neither Wiggins nor Kuminga were in the game, so GSW tried out a 1-2-2 zone. On the next whistle, Steve Kerr tapped Kuminga to defend Gilgeous-Alexander for the final 12.5 seconds of the half, and he forced a turnover.
Gilgeous-Alexander surged in the second half, keeping his signature aggressiveness and drawing more fouls. He never stopped looking for his shot, despite GSW’s early clamps, keying the Thunder’s second-half comeback.
But the clear effort to shut down Gilgeous-Alexander paid off. He came into the game averaging 30.9 points per game on 51.3% field goal shooting. He’s the most relentless driver in the NBA and earns 10.2 foul shots per game.
Against the Warriors, Gilgeous-Alexander still got his 31 points and matched his average with 10 free throws. But he went 10-for-24 (41.6%) and committed five turnovers. GSW made every possession tough for him.
Steph Curry alone at the top
It was fitting that a deep 3-pointer was the shot that put Stephen Curry atop Golden State’s all-time leaderboard in field goals made.
Curry’s triple late in the second quarter gave him 7,217 field goals made, passing Wilt Chamberlain for most in franchise history.
What does the record mean to Curry?
“It means I’m getting old,” he said in his on-court interview with NBC Sports Bay Area.
Oklahoma City, the site of his epic “double bang” game-winner, has been kind to Curry historically. Monday was more of the same, even though the game didn’t warrant the dramatic flairs.
Curry, the franchise star of all franchise stars, is unequivocally the greatest and most iconic player in Warriors history. He’ll finish as the organization’s leader in a plethora of statistical categories.
There are a few records that will be tough to catch, though. Paul Arizin’s 5,010 free throws made are almost 1,500 more than second-place Rick Barry (Curry is fourth). Curry is third all-time in defensive rebounds as a Warrior, but Draymond Green will continue padding his lead. And although most of the NBA’s 3-point records belong to Curry, Anthony Morrow’s 46% clip as a Warrior is probably untouchable.
Curry will just have to settle as the franchise’s most prolific 3-point maker, assister, foul shooter, stealer and gamer.