As the string of easy games in January come to a close, it's nice to end that streak with a team like the Warriors. There were many entertaining baskets from start to finish, and we got to see a glimpse of what Nate Robinson can do when he's not glued to the bench.
The game was semi-equal early in the first, but from then on the Thunder held a pretty consistent lead. Golden State found success by looking for turnovers, but didn't have the size to challenge the Thunder at the rim. The Thunder scored pretty easily down low, and Serge Ibaka continued his offensive confidence from a few games back.
From the beginning, it was obvious that both teams were going to throw away possessions. The Thunder's two main ballhandlers were much bigger than their defenders, leaving them much more susceptible to steals. Not to mention the fact that the Warriors were constantly getting in the Thunder's passing lanes. On the other side, the Warriors throw the ball all over the court regardless of who they're playing, so they're bound to lose a few balls.
When the Warriors started falling behind, their only answer in the half-court offense seemed to be David Lee. You'd think he was finding success by luring Ibaka out to the mid-range and fading away, but he actually wasn't. He had better luck faking out Ibaka in the post and showing off a couple of fancy moves. Though he hasn't changed the face of the team, Lee is easily the best post player the Warriors have had in the past 10 years.
Below: Nate Robinson's Performance, Durant Domination, Perk's Technicals, More Analysis, Awards!
We got to see lots of Nate Robinson in the first and third quarter. In the few short spurts he played for the Thunder, we never really got to see him handle the ball, and we never got to see him at full intensity. He pretty much played full court pressure on Westbrook the entire time, and seemed to want to get a steal and dunk it more than anything else. He had a particularly impressive play in the third, where he broke his opponents ankles and hit a really dirty mid-range jumper. But otherwise, he was fairly average. He was a semi-reliable scorer, but he lost the ball a couple of times and wasn't an overly impressive assist man. I could see how he would help our second unit, but honestly, I'd rather develop a guy like Jackson at this point. All the best to Nate Rob, though.
The Warriors main problem in this game, unsurprisingly, was the lack of an answer for Kevin Durant. Sure, they could force turnovers from him when he had to handle the ball, but when working off the ball or receiving it inside the arc, he was nearly flawless. He played 43 minutes, which is well over his average, but considering the types of scoring spurts he achieved, I have no problem saying the Warriors had trouble guarding this man.
Despite their defensive problems, the Warriors managed to stay close for the duration of the game. Every time the Thunder looked like they were pulling away, the Warriors would take advantage of the Thunder's tendency to pressure and knock down a couple of open threes. Or they would kill us on the fast break.
The Monta Ellis-Russell Westbrook matchup was a joy to watch. Both players function with similar roles on their team, but one accomplishes his task with quickness and athleticism, while the other does it with speed and craftiness. Stephen Curry was kind of a no show tonight, but Klay Thompson filled his role well, scoring off of David Lee screens.
In the second half, there were two major runs by the Thunder, with the first coming early in the third and the second coming midway through the fourth. The first one just consisted of the Thunder getting to high percentage shots while the Warriors outright bricked a few reasonable shots, and the second run consisted of Kevin Durant. With 5:43 to go in the fourth and the Thunder up by 6 coming out of a timeout, the game was still very reachable for the Warriors. But a demoralizing long range three and alley-oop from Durant put the Thunder up by 11, forced another time out, and deflated the Warriors tires.
Lastly, I'd like to say something about Perk's technical. Not a lot of the fans watching the game saw anything wrong, but Perk shoved his elbow into someone else's chest. Most of the time something like that wouldn't be called, so I'm pretty sure Perk just got unlucky here. But still, he should be on his toes, especially since he has a league leading 7 technical fouls. The player with the next most has 5.
With the in, the Thunder move to 16-3 on the year, and keep the NBA's best record in firm grasp. They continue to lead the Western Conference and Northwest Division over the Denver Nuggets by 2 games. With the loss, the Warriors fall to 6-12, and are in a tie with Phoenix for 12th place in the West and 3rd place in the Pacific Division. We see the Warriors again on February 7th.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 37 Points, 13 Rebounds, 3 Assists
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, 28 Points, 6 Rebounds, 11 Assists, 7 Steals
Thunder Blunder: Kendrick Perkins, for another stupid technical foul.
Thunder Plunderer: Dorell Wright, 23 Points, 9 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 2 Steals
Next Game: At the Los Angeles Clippers, Monday, January 30th, 9:30 PM Central Standard Time