The Golden State Warriors are shorthanded but apparently still unstoppable.
They extended their winning streak to eight games and record to 23-6 Thursday with a 112-97 victory over the 8-21 Dallas Mavericks at Oracle Arena. While Dallas didn't figure to pose much of a challenge to the defending champions, it was coming off a win over the San Antonio Spurs.
Kevin Durant continued his stretch of dominance with Stephen Curry out with a sprained right ankle and challenged for a triple-double with 36 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists on 15-of-23 shooting. Klay Thompson caught fire in the fourth quarter as the home team pulled away and finished with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field and a 5-of-5 clip from three-point range.
They were carrying the load for more than just Curry, as the Warriors announced Draymond Green was out with right shoulder soreness, Zaza Pachulia was out with left shoulder soreness and Nick Young was out with a concussion.
For as great as Durant and Thompson are, it is still nearly impossible to win in the NBA as a two-man team. The Warriors needed someone else to assert himself to keep their winning streak alive, and Omri Casspi took full advantage of his starting role and did exactly that.
He connected on his open looks when Dallas focused on the two primary playmakers and finished with 17 points and 11 boards on 7-of-9 shooting.
Casspi's double-double was critical, but it was Durant who took over the game in the third quarter with 15 points as the Warriors built a seven-point advantage after sleepwalking their way to a 48-48 halftime tie.
The Texas product's fingerprints were all over the 12-minute stretch thanks to his perimeter shooting, assists, penetration and rebounding. It is sometimes easy to forget he is a once-in-a-generation player given the sheer amount of talent on the Warriors, but he has reminded everyone since Curry's injury.
The reigning Western Conference Player of the Week averaged 33 points per game over the last three and mixed in a triple-double against the Charlotte Hornets, as he's found the ball in his hands even more during this stretch.
That has allowed him to serve as a facilitator in addition to his role as a deadly shooter who is a nightmare matchup on the wing or high elbow. It was the case again Thursday as the assists evidenced, but Durant also used the ball-handling opportunities to attack the rim as a scorer:
Kevin Durant drives and hammers it down for the @warriors! #DubNation https://t.co/zVvI9fdNjO2017-12-15 04:38:08
Durant lay the groundwork, and Thompson finished the win with four straight three-pointers in less than two minutes in the fourth quarter to put Dallas away for good:
Klay hits consecutive triples and the @warriors have opened up their biggest lead of the night! #DubNation has the 92-79 edge on @NBAonTNT. https://t.co/6yo2iip1je2017-12-15 05:36:42
While the Mavericks are well on their way to a forgettable season and lost again Thursday, they at least didn't back down on the road against the mighty Warriors out of the gates. Their trio of veterans in Harrison Barnes, J.J. Barea—who saw extended time with Dennis Smith Jr. sidelined because of a hip injury—and Dirk Nowitzki combined for 28 first-half points on the way to the early tie.
Nowitzki was in vintage form, hitting contested fadeaway shots from the elbow:
Dallas Mavericks @dallasmavs
Got Dirk'd On 🐐 #MFFL https://t.co/rpJAsPbmYt2017-12-15 04:15:34
They couldn't match the firepower of Durant and Thompson over the course of the entire game, although Nowitzki challenged for a double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Dallas will look to turn things around with another matchup against the Spurs on Saturday, while the Warriors will attempt to continue their roll Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers.