Whatever you make of the dumb beef going on between the Warriors and the Thunder over how the team has yet to pay tribute to Kevin Durant, it’s clear that the two teams don’t like one another. They spent their first three meetings of the season growling at each other and passive-aggressively pushing each other around, and tonight’s matchup was no different. The in-game scuffling was much closer to actual fighting this time, but just like all the others, Golden State won going away.
Triple-double wizard Russell Westbrook looked as mortal as he has all year. The presumptive MVP finished with a meager line of 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five turnovers, and a game-worst plus-minus of -25. Westbrook is too violently athletic to be truly contained, but Golden State continually switches on him and dares him to shoot, a tactic that’s worked for a while. While the Warriors have been fairly quiet in public towards Westbrook and the Thunder, they played like they wanted to prove something tonight. Westbrook’s primary defenders ably harried him all night, and Curry made a point of dunking his first dunk of the season when he got a chance.
Curry has looked less deadly than usual lately, struggling with his shot during a recent stretch where the Warriors lost five of seven. When Curry doesn’t shoot well the team is still very good, but they can’t take the top off of any game at any point unless Curry can get hot and help them rip off sudden 9-0 runs. Tonight, he hit seven threes and scored 23 points in just three quarters of work. Klay Thompson scored 34 for the Warriors, but Curry’s swagger and unconscionable shooting truly won the game for Golden State.
This was not the off-rhythm Steph who shot 2-for-11 from three in a loss to the Bulls. Who better to reassert himself as a game-ending superstar then his running mate’s old crew? The Warriors are still at their best when Durant and Curry share the floor, but they won 73 game and a title thanks to nights like this from Steph. When he floated into a layer of space, you could sense the stadium squirming. If you were unsure about whether Curry wanted to stick it to OKC, take this half-ending three he nailed before running straight into the tunnel.
The Warriors haven’t looked like themselves without Kevin Durant, and if they are to retain the top seed in the Western Conference and make another run to the Finals, it will be because Curry plays like he did during his MVP seasons. It does not appear that the Warriors and Thunder will meet in the playoffs, so Russ will have to wait another year for revenge.