At halftime, Kevin Durant was 3-10 from the floor with just six points. And I’d bet you nobody was happier.
For really the first time this year, his Thunder teammates picked up the slack. It’s not like Durant was playing bad, but for once, he wasn’t forced to play good. The Warriors focused their defensive effort on KD and so Durant deferred to the other two Broingtons. Jeff Green was awesome in the first 24, putting up a double-double (17-10) and James Harden had 15 points (10-10 from the line), as OKC held a 51-50 lead at halftime over Golden State. Just hold down the fort and wait for KD to start cooking and that’s exactly what Harden and Green did.
And all it took was Durant remembering how awesome he is and the Thunder took control in the second half to run away from Golden State, 104-88, notching win No. 11 and finishing this homestand 3-2.
Here’s a good stat: This is the first time this season the Warriors have been held under 90 points. How’s that for defensive improvement? A 29-18 third quarter did the trick for OKC, though it didn’t go as smooth as the box score seems. The Thunder scored seven quick points out of the locker room in literally a minute. Russell Westbrook had five in 10 seconds. But after that, OKC scored six over the next eight minutes. The offense stalled, the team got lazy and GSW cut the score to 63-62. But OKC finished on a 16-5 run to really take the game over.
But back to Harden and Green. Uncle Jeff had his best game of the season, scoring 21 points on 9-16 shooting (1-2 from 3) along with pulling down 13 boards (seven offensive). Harden went 13-14 from the line to finish with 26 points, but The Bearded Wonder also had nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and no turnovers. This is exactly what OKC needed when it drafted Harden. A scorer that could pick up the slack when needed. Russell Westbrook didn’t play all that well (12 points, 4-17 shooting, three assists, seven rebounds, four turnovers), Durant had the underwhelming half and Krstic, Sefolosha, Collison and Livingston all combined for just 17 points. Without Harden stepping up, OKC loses this game.
- Shaun Livingston looked really good in 18 minutes tonight. He didn’t score (just took one shot), but had seven rebounds and three assists. He didn’t look completely healthy, but I thought he looked solid.
- Thabo guarded Monta Ellis for virtually the entire night. Ellis finished with 28 points, but took 28 shots to get there. He also turned it over nine times. I’d say Thabo did pretty good.
- Westbrook looked lazy and tired and lackadaisical in the first half. I don’t know if he’s necessarily pouting, but I don’t see a fire in his belly like Durant or Green sometimes. Sometimes I wonder if he’s worried about his own rather than the scoreboard. He played a much better second half with a ton more energy, but I don’t like seeing extended minutes with Russ not going all out. I know his box score doesn’t look great, but he got picked up by his teammates and he made some crucial plays during OKC’s big run in the third. Still though, lately I’ve been worrying about what Russ sees as most important…
- OKC had 57 (!) rebounds. GSW had just 37. I knew the Thunder had an advantage on the glass, but sheesh.
- Nick Collison gives such a boost off the bench. Eight points, six rebounds in 28 minutes. He makes so many little plays it’s like he’s worth 20 points.
- No Serge Ibaka tonight. I thought he was supposed to be in the regular rotation? I bet Scott Brooks didn’t like a matchup for some reason. He typically plays nine guys, but just eight saw burn tonight.
- KD got it rolling in the second half. He finished with 28 (9-24, 2-6 from 3), nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. One thing Durant does is score well within the offense. He never really forced things and waited for his chance to score. Twenty-two points and 6-14 from the field is a nice second half.
- A big blow to GSW was Corey Maggette getting tossed. He was playing well inside and was adding a real physical presence for the Warriors. But he stupidly got himself tossed and OKC quickly went on its big run.
- What was the deal with that giant pad on Harden’s left knee?
- In case you were wondering, it takes Kevin Durant five steps (FIVE!) to go from halfcourt to the rim. Absolutely insane.
- With the game in hand, Scott Brooks kept his starters in late. I don’t really know why. Durant logged another 45 minutes and Green 39. I just don’t feel like it was necessary to keep them both on the floor up 17 late.
This is exactly what the Thunder needed as they head off to Memphis before hitting a tough stretch of games. A loss here would have really, really hurt. But instead the Thunder was (mostly) focused and played a solid game. The thing about these guys is that even when they shoot poorly and don’t execute, the defense can keep them in it. To hold GSW to 88 points is impressive. Most impressive.
Harden and Green get gold stars for the night, as well as Thabo for his solid D on Ellis. Three players accounted for 75 of OKC’s 104 points and that’s what’s so great – it was a team effort. Guys stepped up. Which is a really nice sign heading into a difficult run of games.
Next up is four days of rest and then a roadie at Memphis Friday night. Maybe that’s why Durant played 45.