The Warriors remain undefeated against top contenders -- barely. Despite not looking nearly as dominant as they have for most of the season, the Warriors somehow escaped Oklahoma City with a 121-118 overtime win over the Thunder, thanks to a last-minute steal in regulation and a 35-foot Stephen Curry game-winning bomb.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 63 points, but couldn't close the game in regulation or the extra period.
It looked like Oklahoma City would hang on after blowing a double-digit fourth-quarter lead. The Thunder led by four points with 14.5 seconds remaining after a Durant three. But after a Klay Thompson layup, the Warriors trapped Durant on the baseline and forced him to throw a wild full-court pass that was intercepted. In the ensuing scramble, Durant fouled Andre Iguodala shooting a game-tying jumper. Iguodala has a history of struggling with clutch free throws, but calmly nailed both to send the game into overtime.
WTF JUST HAPPENED pic.twitter.com/0UXP2hD6aY— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) February 28, 2016
The Thunder had their chances in overtime, but simply couldn't close the game out. Thompson tied the game by hitting a layup and making the free throw after being fouled with under 30 seconds left. Russell Westbrook missed a bank shot on the ensuing possession, setting up Curry's game-winner.
Slow starts have been a problem for the Warriors lately, so it wasn't surprising to see the Thunder take an early double-digit lead in the first quarter. Keeping Golden State from making an inevitable run to erase the deficit, however, has proved to be more complex. With solid defense and Westbrook and Durant leading the way, Oklahoma City managed to take an 11-point halftime lead.
The Warriors finally tied the game in the third quarter, but not before suffering a big scare. Curry went down with an ankle injury and had to leave the game early in the period.
Warriors' Stephen Curry turns left ankle, leaves for locker room (baseline angle) pic.twitter.com/EzKfgmeTXF— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 28, 2016
He walked to the locker room on his own, but his history of ankle injuries scared everyone. Fortunately for the Warriors, Curry was able to return to action shortly after exiting and looked healthy as he helped his team close the gap. Going into the final quarter, Golden State was down five and seemed ready to pounce.
Both teams struggled in the final period. The Thunder offense became even more stagnant than usual, with players taking shots late in the clock that had no chance of going in. Double teams cooled down Durant, while the Warriors chipped away at the deficit. For most of the final minutes, only one possession separated the two opponents.
Ultimately, the Warriors won despite leading for only 29 seconds the entire game. If they won't lose in a game like this, when will they ever lose?
3 other things we learned
The Warriors' slow starts might eventually cost them
The Warriors used to dominate teams from the get-go en route to blowout wins. Lately, they have let opponents hang around before pulling away late. It's understandable for a team that knows how explosive its offense is to take things easy for stretches -- at this point in the season, boredom could very well be affecting them.
The Warriors have been able to simply turn it on and put together a dominant stretch to take control of games for good, but the tendency to play lackadaisically at times could come back to haunt them in the playoffs.
Kevin Durant is not as good as Curry, but he's still great
With Curry exploding onto the scene as the best basketball player in the world and Russell Westbrook putting up insane numbers, it's been easy to forget how great Durant really is. He was the league's second-best player for years and seemed like the heir apparent to LeBron James before foot injuries hampered him on two different occasions. A healthy Durant, however, is ready to reclaim his spot among the elite.
He came into the game against the Warriors averaging 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists, and no one could match his impact on either team for most of the game Saturday. He made two bad mistakes at the end of regulation, but the Thunder were only in the position to win thanks to his brilliance. It's a shame he fouled out in overtime.
As long as they have Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder have a chance to beat anyone.
The Warriors' title chances are as fragile as Stephen Curry's ankles
Stephen Curry is so good that he often looks superhuman, like he did down the stretch. But we all were forced to remember how delicate title chances are when he rolled his ankle and had to leave the court. It looked like a very painful injury, and considering the ankle issues he's had in the past, it could have had serious repercussions.
Fortunately, he was fine this time. Had he gotten hurt, however, the Warriors' chances of repeating as champions would have vanished. Stars have such a big impact that even a historically-great team could see its entire season derailed by an awkward landing.
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SB Nation Presents: Stephen Curry is literally a video game
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