Kevin Durant returned for the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, and as you would expect he handled business as the Thunder knocked off the Golden State Warriors 114-109. Durant's return was well-timed, as the man who kept the Thunder afloat while Durantula sat -- Russell Westbrook -- shot just 4-16 and had five turnovers to his game-high 13 assists.
On the other end, it was Stephen Curry making magic. The second-year Warrior had a game-high 39 on excellent 14-20 shooting, including 4-7 on threes and 7-7 from the line. That's 1.7 points per shot attempt. League average is less than 1.1. This is to say that Stephen Curry is really, really good. He also had six assists and, unfortunately, five turnovers.
Some may express concern that Durant's return pushed Westbrook out of his comfort zone -- a comfort zone that has the guard putting up better numbers than about 99 percent of the league. Poppycock. The Thunder won this game because of all the free throws Durant and Westbrook were able to earn (25 combined, more than the Warriors' 21 total as the Thunder nearly doubled up Golden State on attempts). And let's not forget that the two young Thunder bros have some kind of chemistry.
Monta Ellis had 29 on 11-21 shooting for Golden State, Serge Ibaka continued to make his case as the third most important member of the Thunder. Ibakaveli scored 19 on 8-10 shooting with eight rebounds and three blocks.
- Welcome to Loud City expresses relief that the game isn't 49 minutes long (because the Warriors might have won), while Golden State of Mind cheers the Warriors' furious comeback.
In other action:
Spurs 109, Hornets 84: NBA TV had a snoozer Sunday night, with San Antonio whipping the sliding Hornets in Texas. The Spurs had a 27-point lead at halftime, and that allowed Gregg Popovich to get even his end-of-the-bench players good burn. (Seriously, every dude on the Spurs' active roster -- all 12 of them -- played at least nine minutes. That's under-12 soccer, man. Break out the orange wedges.) The Hornets are careening back to Earth after that 11-1 start: New Orleans is now just 13-7. I give it one, two more days before Chris Paul's name is back in the NYC tabloids.
- At The Hive bemoans a dismal blow-out loss, while Pounding The Rock gets its GIF on. (Gary Neal's invisible high-fives, much fun.)
Knicks 116, Raptors 99: Mark the date -- the New York Knicks are officially a real Mike D'Antoni team. It's been a hard slog, and it took some time, but New York is finally an offensive juggernaut for the first time in D'Antoni's tenure ... and yes, the defense is less than great. Amar'e Stoudemire scored 31 on Toronto, Raymond Felton had eight assists, and the Raptors wasted a break-out performance by Amir Johnson (22 points, 16 rebounds). The Knicks officially have the league's No. 5 offense and No. 18 defense. The team's 12-9 with three more gimmes on the immediate schedule (Minnesota, Washington, Toronto again) before a really tough stretch. But hey! It's finally fun and socially acceptable to watch the Knicks!
- Raptors HQ finds few bright spots for Toronto, while Posting and Toasting gets weepy over the Knicks' seventh straight road win.
Blazers 100, Clippers 91: The cure for any losing streak? "And now, the visiting Los Angeles Clippers." Portland snapped a six-game losing streak by knocking off L.A. The Lesser at the Rose Garden. It's not all rosy: the Blazers nearly blew its 22-point halftime lead, as the Clips pulled to within three several times in the waning minutes. The Blazers led 94-91 with less than 40 seconds left when Andre Miller sealed the game with a steal on Ryan Gomes. Joel Przybilla, who just returned to action after almost a year on the shelf, took a hard fall on a flagrant foul by Brian Cook. But he'd take 10 more of those before he'd volunteer for help defense on Baron Davis again. Get it, Boom!
- Blazersedge expresses only mild satisfaction with the shaky win, while Clips Nation rues 17 missed free throws by L.A.
Celtics 100, Nets 75: This matinee was settled by halftime, as Nate Robinson had 21 while starting for Rajon Rondo. The Nets fall to 6-15, victims (in part) of a really, really tough schedule. It doesn't get much easier in the interim, with the Hawks, Mavericks and Lakers on the docket. Meanwhile, the Celtics, who we feared would overlook lesser teams after that embarrassing Game No. 2 loss to Cleveland in October, has fallen to just one other losing team (Toronto) since.
- Nets Daily finds some momentum of the wrong kind, while Celtics Blog notes that Glen Davis got hit in the head with a medicine ball when the Nets were being introduced.
Nuggets 108, Grizzlies 107: Denver allowed Memphis to shoot 52 percent from the floor and only shot 45 percent itself ... and still won. How? The Nuggets owned the other three major categories: Denver got to the line more (33 free throws to Memphis' 17), owned the glass (33 percent of its offensive rebound opportunities to 22 percent for Memphis) and committed fewer turnover (14 to Memphis' 17). It's rare to win a game with such a deficit in shooting percentage, and the Nuggets won by just one point. Tough loss for the Grizzlies; monster game for Nene, who scored 27 points on 10-13 shooting, and added 11 rebounds and six assists.
- Denver Stiffs sighs after another (nearly) blown lead for the Nuggets. For more on the Grizzlies, check out Straight Outta Vancouver.
Suns 125, Wizards 108: The Wizards, simply put, are not very good. I'm a Kings fan, I'm a connoisseur of "not very good." By schedule-adjusted point differential, the Wizards are only better than the Cavs and Kings. The Suns made Washington look the part, whipping up a solid victory behind 20 points and 17 assists by Steve Nash and 26 points off the bench for Hakim Warrick. Earl Barron, Phoenix's D-League center pick-up, started. He had as many offensive rebounds in 16 minutes as the Wizards' two starting big men -- JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche -- had defensive rebounds in a combined 52 minutes. It's supposed to be harder to get offensive rebounds than defensive rebounds, and McGee and Blatche are supposed to be better than Barron. Blatche did have 24 points. But rebounding's in the job description too, bub.
- Bullets Forever wonders if the Wizards roster is just poorly constructed (as the team's coach, Flip Saunders, continues to take heat), while Bright Side of the Suns breaks down the crucial third quarter.
Pistons 102, Cavaliers 92: Cleveland is officially in freefall. That embarrassing implosion on Thursday's return of LeBron James was just the start: the Cavs followed it up with a 34-point loss to the Wolves (!) and, Sunday, this 10-point home loss to the bad Pistons. Detroit had strong performances from Rip Hamilton (27 points) and Rodney Stuckey (24 points, 11 assists, six rebounds), but the Pistons aren't good enough up front to beat anything but awful teams on the road. Does that make the Cavaliers awful? I think it does. By point margin, the only team worse than Cleveland right now is Sacramento. And trust me, Sacramento is really, really bad.