Stephen Curry banked in an off-balance shot while getting fouled by Russell Westbrook to start a three-point play, falling to his knees and shaking his shoulders to the sellout crowd.
Not quite the shimmy Mark Jackson displayed during his playing days – still plenty good enough to please the Golden State coach.
Curry had 31 points and seven assists, and the Warriors punctuated the season’s midpoint by outlasting the NBA-best Oklahoma City Thunder 104-99 in style Wednesday night.
”The way he’s playing,” Jackson said, ”dance all you want.”
On the eve of the announcement for All-Star reserves, Golden State’s top two candidates made a lasting impression.
Curry matched Kevin Durant’s spectacular scores all game, stole a pass from the Thunder’s leading man in the final seconds and hit a pair of free throws to seal the Warriors’ third straight victory. David Lee had 22 points and 12 rebounds, helped Golden State outrebound Oklahoma City’s lengthy frontline 40-39 and made some big plays late.
The Warriors, with one playoff appearance since 1994, are 26-15 and own the fifth-best record in the Western Conference with another 41 games to play.
”I’m sure we’re surprising people,” Curry said.
Even Jackson, who doubles as a preacher, said he always had faith his team could win but ”I get my praise and worship on because I didn’t think it’d be this good,” especially with center Andrew Bogut still sidelined indefinitely while recovering from left ankle surgery.
Durant had 33 points, nine assists and five rebounds, and Kevin Martin scored 16 points for the Thunder, who blew an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter a night after running away with a win at the Los Angeles Clippers. Oklahoma City (33-10) had won seven of eight but still remains at the top of the NBA standings.
”We could have been much better defensively,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ”They made a lot of plays inside the paint but they got a lot of points off of our turnovers, too. We didn’t make enough plays down the stretch and they did. They deserved to win this game.”
Once again, the Warriors showed they’re no fluke out West this season.
Lee found Carl Landry slicing through the lane for a dunk, Klay Thompson hit a running hook as part of his 19 points and Landry put back his own miss to give Golden State a 97-94 lead with 2:25 remaining.
Kendrick Perkins tipped in a rebound on the other end before Jarrett Jack swished in a high-arching shot over Durant near the top of the key to put the Warriors ahead by three again. Durant answered back with a pair of free throws, only to watch Lee’s layup extend Golden State’s lead once more.
Durant hit one of two free throws to slice Golden State’s lead to 101-99, then Curry missed an open 3-pointer to give the Thunder a chance with 17.5 seconds to play.
Durant caught the inbounds pass on the right side and tried to slip a quick pass to Perkins in the paint. Instead, Curry intercepted and was fouled, making both free throws to put the Warriors ahead by four with 12.4 seconds left.
”The design was to get me a shot coming off toward the corner but they had two on the ball and they left Perk,” Durant said. ”I’ve just got to make a better read. I thought he was going to dive. I’ve got to hold onto that ball. That’s all on me. I can’t put Perk in that position.”
Curry also outplayed Westbrook, who is likely headed for an All-Star selection. Westbrook had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists while shooting 3 of 16 from the floor, including 0 of 5 from beyond the arc.
Golden State hasn’t had an All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997. That drought might end Thursday when the NBA announces the reserves, who are voted on by coaches.
”He had my vote,” Brooks said of Curry.
Even with all of Oklahoma City’s length and quickness, Curry often made the game seem like his own layup line.
He sliced and shook through the lane to convert three straight layups, capping the brief burst with a no-look reverse off his left hand. The Warriors were outshot 60 to 47 percent in the first quarter, though they still led 27-26 in large part because of six turnovers by Oklahoma City.
Durant stayed on the offensive and pushed the pace. He got past Landry for an uncontested dunk after the Warriors forward tweaked his ankle preparing to defend Durant, who also made a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws during a 10-3 run that put the Thunder ahead 45-38 midway through the second quarter.
Durant and Curry continued to dazzle in the second half, each with a spectacular score on one end only to have the other come back even stronger. At one point, the 6-foot-9 Durant covered the diminutive point guard, chasing him around screens all over the perimeter.
Curry kept on coming and so did the Warriors, who went up 72-68 on his three-point play, which Curry celebrated with a shimmy similar to the one Jackson often showcased as an NBA point guard. Curry said he hadn’t practiced the move, nor could he recall exactly what he did in the moment.
”It’s truly genuine,” he said.
So might be Golden State’s play this season.
Notes: The Warriors are the only team to beat the Thunder, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers this season. … Oklahoma City is 6-3 on the second night of back-to-back games this season. … The Thunder are 2-2 on their season-long six-game trip.