The Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a 48-point performance from Monta Ellis to steal a 119-116 win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, to improve their NBA-best record to 20-5.
Kevin Durant shook off a slow start to score a team-high 33 points with 10 rebounds and seven assists to lead OKC in a shootout at ORACLE Arena. His 18-foot bank shot from the left elbow off an inbounds pass from James Harden served as the go-ahead basket, giving the Thunder a 117-116 lead with 14.2 seconds to go in the final period. Ellis, who scored a career-high 48 points, missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and OKC’s Russell Westbrook, who added 31 points and seven rebounds, provided the final margin by sinking a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds left to play. The Warriors had a chance to tie it on a last-second shot, but Durant blocked a desperate corner 3-point attempt by Brandon Rush (nine points) to seal the win.
Coming off a previous night overtime win against the Portland Trailblazers, the Thunder improved to 11-4 on the road, 2-1 on this five-game road trip and 6-1 in games decided by four points or less. Durant is starting to make a habit of converting game-winning shots. The league’s two-time scoring leader had a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 29, a dunk with 2.9 seconds left in an overtime victory on Monday night, and the shot off glass on Tuesday to give OKC its fourth win in five games.
Despite Ellis’ ninth career 40-point game and David Lee’s second career triple-double with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, Thursday’s loss was just a microcosm of the Warriors’ season, as they failed to close out another opponent. Golden State turned the ball over six times in the fourth and after shooting 59.7 percent through three quarters, the Warriors went 7-of-18 for 38.9 percent in the final period, including five missed 3-pointers and just six points in the paint. Golden State’s home record now falls to a dismal 6-8, and given their struggles on the road at 2-6 record, Mark Jackson needs to find a solution to their offensive woes down the stretch.
The Warriors had every opportunity to pull the upset. The Thunder’s road stretch came full circle, as their trip began with a 120-109 victory over the Warriors on Jan. 27. But after their thrilling comeback victory in Portland, OKC struggled to find their rhythm early one. Ellis led the charge finishing 18-of-29 from the field and hitting 9-of-10 free throws with seven rebounds and two assist. The Warriors sprinted out to an 8-0 lead in the first 1:58 of the game as Ellis set the tone, connecting on 12-of-17 shots in the first half to register 30 points in 26 minutes. But his performance alone wasn’t enough to stop the Thunder. OKC tightened up on defense, and went on an 11-3 run to put the Thunder ahead 59-57 heading into halftime. Golden State started the second half with a 13-5 spurt that put the Warriors ahead 70-64 in the first few minutes of the third. That’s when the game turned into a 3-point shootout. Both teams combined to shoot 13 3-pointers in the quarter, as the Thunder converted five of its nine shots, helping to cut the deficit that grew to be as large as 12 (80-68) to two points, 93-91, at the end of the third.
The Warriors led by as much as seven twice in the final period. The score was 105-98 after a layup by Ellis, then 107-100 after a jumper by Lee. Minutes later, a three-point play on a runner by Ellis put Golden State ahead 112-108 inside of four minutes. But that lead didn’t last thanks to the six fourth-quarter turnovers. The Warriors went the next three minutes without a point, allowing a 7-0 OKC run that was capped by an emphatic slam from Durant, as Golden State trailed 115-112. After Dorell Wright (nine points, six rebounds) split a pair of free throws, the Warriors reclaimed the lead on a 3-pointer by Ellis, 116-115, but Durant responded by banking home a jumper to put the Thunder ahead for good.
The Thunder’s Daequan Cook made 5-of-6 3-pointers for 17 points off the bench and Harden finished with 19 points and seven assists. Oklahoma City will head to Sacramento on Thursday to face the Kings.
Golden State will head to Denver to face the Nuggets on Thursday.