It is amazing the difference one game can make. One game you’re celebrating a rare playoff berth, the next game you’re getting ran out of the gym and lose your starting center.
The Golden State Warriors (45-34) were manhandled by the Oklahoma City Thunder (58-21) on Thursday night, losing by a score of 116-97. In front of Oracle Arena‘s 31st straight sellout crowd, the Warriors flat out embarrassed themselves.
Kevin Durant was unstoppable at times, getting to the rim and scoring at will. Durant finished with 31 points on just 10-16 shooting with 10 rebounds and eight assists in only 34 minutes. The Warriors feeble defense got a taste of what the postseason will be like, and they didn’t like it.
Andrew Bogut had a night to forget. An early dunk attempt was badly rejected by Serge Ibaka, leading to the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag. Bogut ended his night shortly after by once again spraining his surgically repaired ankle. Coach Mark Jackson said that Bogut will not be traveling with the team when they take on the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
The absence of Bogut posed a problem for the Warriors in the paint as they were out-rebounded by the Thunder 46-39. But the biggest issue for Golden State was their non-existent defense. OKC shot 50.6% from the field and 44.4% from beyond the arc. The Thunder also had 30 assists to the Warriors’ 16. It was a flat out domination.
OKC suffered a few injuries of their own. Big man Kendrick Perkins left the game early with hamstring tightness and is listed as doubtful for Friday night’s contest against the Portland Trail Blazers. Kevin Martin, who knocked down four of his five three-point attempts and finished with 23 points off of the bench, left the game in the 4th quarter with lower back tightness, but claims that he will be fine.
Stephen Curry seemed to be the only player who scored for the better part of the game, clearly showing that he’s the Warriors’ best player. Curry scored 22 points and dished out seven assists, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the little help that he received.
With the Thunder winning, they now find themselves a half game up on the San Antonio Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference as they hope to secure home court advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
With the Warriors losing, they find themselves just a half game up on the feisty Houston Rockets, who own the tiebreaker, for the sixth seed in the conference. With the most recent injury of Andrew Bogut, the Warriors now find themselves in a tough position.
For a team that has accomplished so much just by making the playoffs, should the Warriors push forward over these last three games in hopes of securing the sixth seed? Or should coach Mark Jackson just rest his players down the stretch, especially with an already injured Bogut? It’s a tough decision to make, and it will be interesting to see what plays out over the last week of the season.
Golden Sate heads to Los Angeles to take on Kobe Bryant and his Lakers for an always heated Bay vs. LA rivalry. It is sure to be another playoff-like atmosphere as LA desperately seeks to earn the last playoff spot. Playoff implications will be running high.
Tip off is at 7:30 PM PT
You can follow Rich Peters on twitter @Tricky_Roma.