Warriors hold off late Thunder surge for 128-120 victory

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY–  Heading into Monday night, Oklahoma City stood just a single game behind Golden State. While both were hovering around .500, it was the Thunder who appeared to be the team playing with more cohesiveness and energy this season.

Yet, when the two teams faced off Monday, the Warriors had brief flashes of the franchise that has owned the NBA for much of the past decade. That was enough to hold off a late Thunder run and come away with a 128-120 victory at the Paycom Center.

While the Thunder came away loss, guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander did see something important from his team.
“Obviously you don’t want to dig yourself that deep of a hole and we know that,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “But just our fight and our will to compete was pretty good tonight. We could have easily let up.”

After trailing by more than 20 points in the second half, with 4:13 left in the game, Jaylin Williams cut the Warrior’s lead down to 109-107. Golden State missed a shot on the ensuing possession and the Thunder had an opportunity to tie or take the lead.

However, Gilgeous-Alexander had his shot blocked and Golden State turned the stop into a Jordan Poole corner 3-pointer and a 112-107 advantage.

The Thunder came up empty on their next two possessions before Steph Curry buried a 3-pointer and pushed the advantage to eight points.

With 1:44 left on the clock, Gilgeous-Alexander scored, and the Thunder trailed 117-111. However, Klay Thompson came back with an easy baseline score.

Josh Giddey was fouled and made 1 of 2 from the free-throw line. Down seven, the Thunder needed a stop. That is what they got when Poole missed a long jumper. However, GSW got the rebound and Draymond Green fed Kevon Looney for a dunk down the middle of the lane.

Oklahoma City was able to keep scoring, but Golden State kept making free throws to put the contest away.

“We came out with some focus tonight,” said Curry. “Defensively especially. Held them to 20 points in the first quarter. We lost a little focus at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth. Too much fouling and slowed the game down and gave them easy points. We maintained our composure down the stretch.”

Curry finished with 38 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. In the process, Curry broke Wilt Chamberlain’s franchise record for most field goals made.

“It means I’m getting old,” Curry said.

 Thompson added 28 points and seven boards. Green had 7 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in the win for Golden State.

Gilgeous-Alexander paced Oklahoma City (24-26) with 31 points and seven assists. Giddey added 21, eight rebounds and six assists while Jalen Williams posted 19 points. Jaylin Williams provided a boost off the bench with 12 points and eight boards.

“We played for three quarters pretty straight,” Giddey said. “We were right there with them and got it to a two-point game and had a chance to win it.”

Curry and Thompson made themselves right at home to start the night. The Splash Brothers combined for 23 points in the opening quarter as the Warriors took a 38-20 advantage.

Yet, it was more than just Curry and Thompson who were cooking for the Warriors. As a team, they combined for a season-high 15 assists in the first quarter.

Oklahoma City’s offense wasn’t in the same groove as Golden State. They shot 41 percent from the field in the first half but found themselves only trailing 63-48 at halftime.

After trailing by 21 points early in the third quarter, the Thunder started slicing into the deficit with a tighter defense and a more aggrieve offense.

With just a few seconds left in the third, Curry drained a deep 3-pointer to put Golden State up 12. However, GSW left too much time on the clock and Mike Muscala answered with a 3-pointer to cut the gap to 9 at the buzzer.

Oklahoma City kept riding the momentum into the fourth quarter and got to within two points with just over 8 minutes left.

“That first quarter was not good enough,” Giddey said. “They got what they wanted offensively. Offensively, for us, we didn’t get enough. We dug ourselves a 20 point hole that we fought out of, but it was too deep in the end to come back from.”

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Photo: Michael Kinney

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