Thunder pick up urgent win over Warriors
The Thunder waited until their lowest moment in recent memory to play their best game of the season.
Desperate times, people.
Friday was everything for the Thunder and the Thunder played like it. Played like it was a Game 7, played like the season still mattered to them. Played like folks kind of expected they would play. Like a championship team.
It’s hard to find moments or nights where urgency is mandatory in the NBA with its 82-game season and its extended playoff trek. This isn’t college football or the NFL where each game provides its own Armageddon. Friday was that night for the Thunder. They didn’t save their season with the 127-115 win over the Warriors, but it sure felt like it.
The house was burning down around them, fueled by rumors and ignited by atrocious play. The Thunder came in after getting undone in Houston and losers of three of their last four games. Combine that with a locker room seemingly coming apart, due to Reggie Jackson holding onto a season-long grudge about not becoming a starter. Now as trade talks circled around swirled around and Golden State coming to town along with a below-.500 record, these were the end days. Firing coach Scott Brooks, losing Kevin Durant to free agency in a year, missing the playoffs this year. All topics being discussed.
"We played Thunder basketball," Durant said. "We came out with a lot of energy on both ends. You didn’t see it last game, but that’s the way we usually play."
No, that’s the way they used to play. Friday felt like "Remember When night in OKC. It was 2012 all over again as Durant and Russell Westbrook undid teams with jumpers and unrivaled joy, furious athleticism and unmatched energy.
Durant went 14-of-18 for 36 points, adding nine rebounds and just two turnovers in 38 minutes and Durant wasn’t even the story. Westbrook was All-Star-Hall of Fame good. He scored 17 points, had 17 assists, 15 rebounds and expounded on it after the game saying only, "It was good execution." Westbrook had a triple-double and matched his career-best for rebounds and set his personal record in assists. Only Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo have had a game with 17 points, 17 assists and 15 rebounds.
It was clinical and magical and everything the Thunder haven’t been this season. The highlights in the 2014-15 death march have centered around Durant and Westbrook being injured and then returning. On-court positives have been harder to find, save for a victory at San Antonio and a home win against Washington.
But Friday, Durant made everything, at least it seemed like it and Westbrook was perfect, and it seemed like that, too. Serge Ibaka, part inconsistent and part invisible this season in fourth quarters, dominated his way to 14 points in the last 12 minutes, on the way to a career-best 27 for the game.
Dion Waiters, newest to the team, looked like he fit right in. Waiters was 8-of-16, made both his 3-pointers and scored 21 points and it was like the fourth-best performance of the night, not even mentioning the Thunder defense which limited Stephen Curry to 6-of-13 shooting and 19 points. The Thunder shot 52.6 percent and made 10 3-pointers.
"Lot of guys played very well," Brooks said.
Been a long time since that’s happened for the Thunder, but not long enough no one remembers how it used to be,
Friday felt like the old days. It also felt like the Thunder could get back there once again, too.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK