What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Two nights, two polar opposite games, two incredible finishes, two Thunder wins.
Let us check our glass:
Half Empty: For the second time in less than a week, the Thunder allowed a small guard to score over 40 points and lead his team to the brink of victory. On Saturday, it was Tony Parker. This night it was Monta Ellis, who did the best impersonation of Allen Iverson I've ever seen in scoring 48 points on a variety of jumpers and layups. Overall, the Warriors shot 55% from the field for the game and 42.9% from 3-point range. Power forward David Lee(!) had a triple double. In two separate quarters, the Warriors scored 35 and 36 points, respectively. Thunder defense was...lacking.
Half Full: All of the above, and yet the Thunder figured out a way to win in the end. This is their new reality - they are the top dogs in the NBA, and every other team is going to give them their best shot to stick an 'L' on the Thunder's record. Tonight, the Warriors shot the ball as well as we've seen any team shoot all season long. Ellis had 48, David Lee had 25, they tallied 28 assists, and even then, despite playing A+ offensive basketball, the Thunder caught them late and finished strong to take the win.
My scotch glass: Make it a double, because we were just treated to two amazing performances by the Thunder on consecutive nights.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder won?
As great as the Warriors were on offense, the Thunder were just as good. They shot the ball 52.4% for the game, hit 11-26 from 3-point range, made 20 of 21 free throws, had 24 assists (7 each for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden), and for a second night in a row made almost every single clutch play they had to in order to come from behind and win.
While the usual trio of Durant (33 points), Harden (19 points), and Westbrook (31 points) were good all around in their offense, one of the biggest keys to tonight's win was the play of Daequan Cook. Cook shot 5-6 from 3-point range and scored 17 overall. Cook was masterful in finding soft spots in the Warrior's defense so that Durant could whip passes to him out of the post. In the final five minutes of play, Cook hit a two and a 3-pointer that brought the Thunder to within a single point, and shortly thereafter the Thunder regained the lead.
What's the key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
As much as tonight was an offensive explosion by the Warriors, in the end, it was still defense that sealed the Thunder win. After giving up 36 points to the Warriors in the 3rd, OKC buckled down in the 4th and challenged shots better than they had all game. Golden State took a seven point lead with 7:20 remaining, but only scored nine points the rest of the way, and only four in the final 3:40. Because of this, the Thunder were able to close out the game on an 11-4 run to get the win.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
Hopefully the team has some ice baths and masseuses ready for these players after having logged heavy minutes during two extremely physically challenging games.
To the Thunder's benefit, this game was not one where a poor team hung around with a disinterested Thunder team (see: Wizards loss) and then nearly upset them in the end. Rather, this was a Warriors team that played really, really good basketball and nearly pulled of an upset. The more the Thunder survive games like this, where they take the opposition's best shot and still prevail, the stronger their psyche will grow. By the end of the season, they will have an entire new catalog of experience on which to rely when the games start to have exponentially greater meaning.
For us the fans, it means that we got to enjoy another amazing display of basketball.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 33 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, and the go-ahead jumper with 14 seconds to go.
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, 31 points, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Thunder Blunder: Thunder defense generally, and Westbrook's 9 turnovers specifically
Thunder Plunderer: Monta Ellis, 48 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Next Game: At the Sacramento Kings, Thursday February 9, 9:30 PM Central Standard Time