Kevin Durant sees an open lane to the basket, takes it and throws down a thunderous one-handed jam that gets the fans out of their seats.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Leaning deep into the left corner, Nick Young let fly on a 3 as the buzzer sounded on the third quarter, holding his pose and then breaking out a shimmy right in front of the Oklahoma City Thunder bench as the ball splashed through the net.
Russell Westbrook popped up to give Young a shove for the showboating, but much like the game for the Thunder, it was too late.
The bucket punctuated a 14-0 run for the Golden State Warriors to finish the last 3:54 of the third quarter, breaking open what was a back-and-forth rock fight with the Thunder, and it carried them to a soft landing in a 112-80 win. After two previous blowouts losses to the Thunder — one in Oklahoma City and one in Oakland — the Warriors cleansed themselves by getting back to some basics. Namely, making lots of 3s and riding the wave of momentum.
Nick Young celebrates a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter with a shimmy in front of the Thunder beach, which sparks Russell Westbrook to shove Young as he walks away.
It was all a long time coming for the Thunder, who opened the game hitting 6 of 28 (21.4 percent) field goals in the first quarter. They stayed in it with some stingy defense and dominant rebounding, and OKC actually led 59-56 with 7:52 left in the third. But with Paul George shooting 1-of-14, Westbrook going 4-of-15 and Carmelo Anthony 6-of-17 — that’s 11-of-46 for 34 points combined — eventually the whole not-making-shots thing caught up to the Thunder.
George, who has torched the Warriors this season, didn’t hit his first shot until midway through the third after missing his opening nine attempts. No amount of rebounding and defense can keep you close to the Warriors when you shoot like that; the Thunder as a team finished with a 33.0 field goal percentage.
And while plenty of that had to do with a clear renewed defensive disposition for the Warriors, a lot of it came on clean, rhythm looks: Like George in the first quarter, air-balling a 3 as he stood alone and uncontested on the wing; or Westbrook coming up short to the point of almost air-balling on a driving lefty layup at the end of the first quarter.
Even with the injury to Andre Roberson, the Thunder, maybe more than any other team, have developed a scheme to disrupt the Warriors’ offense. The Thunder use their length, size and activity to take away a lot of the passing and moving by trapping on pick-and-rolls and forcing turnovers.
But Golden State coach Steve Kerr is obviously a savvy tactician himself, and an adjustment the Warriors made was to use the Thunder’s tendency to overplay, especially that of George, against them with more back cutting off the wings. It unlocked many of the features for the Warriors, getting them into those 4-on-3 situations in which a drive leads to a pass that leads to another pass that leads to a wide-open shot.
It wouldn’t be Thunder-Warriors without some emotional activity, though. It started with Anthony and Kevin Durant having words after Anthony gave Durant a shove. Interestingly, Westbrook was the farthest player away from the scuffle, standing a good 20 feet away and bent over with his hands on his knees as Durant and Anthony had to be separated. Anthony scuffled again later, this time with Draymond Green. Green caught Anthony in the face after a foul call, making Anthony so heated that he ripped off his headband and spiked it onto the floor before doing some extended chatting with Green and other Warriors.
It was all frustrating for the Thunder, with George picking up a technical foul early in the fourth before he joined the other starters on the bench to watch as Young and Zaza Pachulia cleaned up in garbage time.
There have been three Thunder-Warriors games this season, and all three finished with stars watching from the sidelines. There have been several reasons for that, on both sides, but in this case, it was the power and proficiency of the Warriors in capitalizing on a miserable night for the Thunder. Durant (28 points on 10 of 20 shooting) is a problem for anyone, and when the Thunder were hanging around, he kept popping shots on curling 3s. Stephen Curry eventually joined in (21 points, 5-of-12 from 3), setting the stage for Young to dance on the Thunder.
There’s one more of these to go — April 3 in Oklahoma City — and maybe it will be the one that features some big names on the floor at the finish line. The Thunder have held their heads high this season by beating good teams, but like their uncharacteristically poor shooting on Saturday, perhaps that eventually was going to catch up to them.