The Oklahoma City Thunder played their first of a back-to-back at home tonight against the Golden State Warriors. In the past, this matchup developed into a “can’t miss experience.” However, now, the rivalry between these two teams no longer applies.
The funny thing about the NBA is that rivalries never last. The Celtics/Lakers, Bulls/Pistons, and Pacers/Knicks all had a historic rivalry in their respective time. The same goes for the Thunder/Warriors; a game always circled on the calendars of basketball fans and NBA networks alike. Of course, you all know the story: The shot from Stephan Curry, Kevin Durant joining the Warriors, and Russell Westbrook jawing at Durant during his return to Oklahoma City. It indeed was an exciting time to be a Thunder fan.
Nevertheless, that chapter for Thunder fans should be at least on its way to bed. The new era in Oklahoma City Thunder basketball is young and growing. The unexpected basketball I.Q. of Josh Giddey and the smoothness of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are taking center stage in the next chapter. But, tonight, the familiar foe, the Golden State Warriors and Stephan Curry, came to visit.
For Oklahoma City, Derrick Favors sat out this game due to rest. The Thunder will play the Los Angeles Lakers tomorrow. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl got the start for the Thunder in place of Favors. The Warriors are still awaiting the return of Klay Thompson from an injury sustained last season. He’s expecting to return close to Thanksgiving.
OKC came out of the gate, ready to play; the Thunder’s exceptional early defense and outstanding ball movement caused the Warriors to call a timeout with six points in just six minutes. Robinson-Earl was a noted bright spot in the first quarter. At the three-minute of the first quarter, OKC started to filter in the second unit. Then, ironically, Curry started to heat up, hitting back-to-back threes, pulling the Warriors to within five from ten.
OKC finished the first quarter with a solid 34 points, the most they’ve scored this season. Also, the first time they’ve passed the 30 point mark in the first quarter.
Golden State started the second quarter shooting just 1-of-8 from the floor. The Warrior’s offensive struggles caused Warriors coach Steve Kerr to bring Curry back into the game at the seven-minute mark of the second quarter. Both teams posted significantly lower numbers during the second quarter than the first. Then, with two minutes left in the first half, OKC goes on a 9-0 run to close the quarter. They held Golden State to just 19 points in the second quarter.
The story of the first half was the play of Robinson-Earl, who fueled the Thunder attack with some timely shots. However, balanced scoring for the Thunder was completely fundamental from the start. All of the started scored more than five points in the first half. The team shot 52 percent from the floor and 46 percent from three. OKC looked polished in the first half with ball movement, floor spacing, and excellent cutting to the basket.
Golden State would not go away quietly, Damion Lee fueled a couple of Warrior mini runs during the third quarter to chip into OKC’s lead. However, with four minutes left in the third quarter, Curry only had 15 points. By the end of the third, Curry had 23 points, Andrew Wiggins and Lee with 15 propelling the Warriors to a five-point lead heading to the fourth.
The fourth quarter would become the Thunder’s undoing. The Warriors started making timely shots while OKC looked gassed. However, the overall effort from OKC at home should be noted. Especially considering the Lakers are OKC’s next opponent tomorrow night. The Warriors would go on to win 106-98. Gilgeous-Alexander finished the night with 30 points and four assists.