A superb effort against the league’s highest-scoring team helped
the Oklahoma City Thunder re-establish their defensive identity.
The Thunder’s defense could face another test Sunday night.
Going for the team’s first 50-win season in five years, Oklahoma
City looks for the franchise’s first series sweep of the up-tempo
Golden State Warriors since 2001-02.
After three of their previous five opponents shot at least 52.1
percent from the field, the Thunder (49-30) limited Phoenix – the
league’s top-scoring team at 110.1 points per game – to 45.3
percent shooting and 34 second-half points in Friday’s 96-91
“We want to become one of the better teams in basketball and we
have to fix the problems as we see it,” coach Scott Brooks said
after the Thunder snapped a two-game slide. “It’s always about
fixing things, and right now we’re working on our defense and
continue to have focus on that end.”
Oklahoma City, which is sixth in the Western Conference and just
one-half game ahead of San Antonio, needs one victory to reach 50
for the first time since the Seattle SuperSonics went 52-30 in
2004-05, which was also when the team last appeared in the
The Thunder have won all three matchups with Golden State this
season, posting a 104-95 victory in their last trip to Oakland on
Kevin Durant, the league’s leading scorer with 30.0 points per
game, had 29 with eight rebounds while point guard Russell
Westbrook added 21 points with 10 assists, a career-high eight
steals and seven boards.
“He does a great job of filling up the stat sheet,” Durant said
of Westbrook, who is scoring 20.3 points per game with 7.0 assists,
6.3 rebounds and 3.7 steals versus Golden State this season.
Durant doesn’t do a bad job of that either, averaging 34.0
points, 9.3 boards and 3.0 steals versus the Warriors in
While Durant and the Thunder are looking to close the two-game
gap with the fifth-place Suns, Golden State (24-55) is just trying
to close out its season on a positive note.
The Warriors, second in the league with 108.7 points per game,
had won three of four prior to Saturday’s 107-104 loss at the Los
Rookie Stephen Curry had five 3-pointers and scored 29, but he
was held without a field goal in the final 12 minutes as the
Warriors fell to 7-33 on the road.
“I don’t need to score to be effective,” said Curry, who is
averaging 19.7 points and has made 7 of 13 from beyond the arc
against Oklahoma City. “If I’m drawing defenders away so they can
shoot jumpers, then I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. It just
wasn’t enough tonight.”
Golden State, which plays two of its final three games at home,
looks for back-to-back wins at Oracle Arena for the first time
since Feb. 10 and 17.
Oklahoma City center Nenad Krstic could miss his second straight
game with a right knee contusion. If he does, that will likely give
more opportunities to rookie Serge Ibaka, who matched a season high
with 15 points and grabbed nine boards Friday.
The Thunder have won five of seven versus the Warriors since
relocating from Seattle prior to last season.