The Golden State Warriors have returned from the All-Star break with a renewed sense of energy after their 112-80 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night.
A 30-10 run in the third quarter that led to the Warriors taking an 84-66 lead turned out to be the key difference in the win.
Golden State's tandem of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry proved to be too much for the Thunder defense. They combined for 49 points on 18-of-39 shooting, including nine of the Warriors' 17 three-pointers.
In a losing effort, Russell Westbrook was able to post a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The reigning NBA MVP struggled to find consistency with his shot, making just four of his 15 field-goal attempts and committing five of Oklahoma City's 15 turnovers.
This was Golden State's first win over the Thunder this season after losing their previous two matchups by a combined 37 points. The Warriors dominated this Western Conference showdown last year, going a perfect 4-0 against Oklahoma City.
As is often the case when these two teams meet, things were testy early, with Durant and Carmelo Anthony each receiving technical fouls during this second-quarter exchange:
Durant has had problems avoiding technical fouls this season. That was his 12th for Golden State, so four more will result in an automatic one-game suspension for the former NBA MVP.
When Durant wasn't busy mixing it up with Anthony, he once again put on a show against his former team. He was averaging 33.4 points in five games versus the Thunder prior to Saturday, his best against any single opponent.
Not to be outdone, Curry was doing a little bit of everything to lead Golden State on both sides of the ball. He grabbed nine rebounds, dished out six assists, had three steals and showed off incredible court vision with this pass to Nick Young at the end of the third quarter:
The only weak link for the Warriors offense was Klay Thompson, who managed just 11 points and shot 1-of-11 from three-point range.
Even though Thompson wasn't contributing much with the ball, Matt Steinmetz of 95.7 The Game noted he made his presence felt in a different way:
Defense was the story of this game for the Warriors. The defending NBA champs had a lull with a 3-3 record before the All-Star break in part because they were allowing 109 points per game during that stretch.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr even said at the beginning of this month his team was anticipating the All-Star break.
"Guys are dying to get to the All-Star break," he told reporters. "We're limping to the finish line of the All-Star break. But we've got to fight through it to the break and then we need to get the hell away from each other and go sit on a beach and relax and then we'll be in great shape."
In two games since that weeklong sabbatical, the Warriors have looked more like themselves. They defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in their first game back on Thursday before shutting down the Thunder.
Oklahoma City, playing its third straight road game dating back to Feb. 14, was completely out of sorts on offense. Paul George was aware of those struggles in the fourth quarter:
Now 61 games into this Big Three experiment with Westbrook, George and Carmelo Anthony, there is still something not quite in sync with this group.
Josh Eberley of Hoop Magazine noted this stat about George prior to the game:
Saturday was a night George would just as soon forget, but the Thunder will need him to jell with Westbrook if they want to have any hope of competing with the Warriors and Houston Rockets in the postseason.
Anthony had what has become a fairly standard game for him with 14 points and five rebounds, though The Ringer's Bill Simmons offered an interesting tidbit about the Thunder forward's game that has changed significantly this season:
Given Westbrook's talent and need to dominate the ball, it's been difficult for Anthony to take full advantage of the things he does well. His 41.3 field-goal percentage this season is the worst of his career.
The Thunder will go as far as Westbrook, George and Anthony take them. Their previous success against Golden State this season doesn't make this defeat an immediate cause for concern, though head coach Billy Donovan needs to find ways to maximize the potential on his roster.
The Warriors needed a showing like this in prime time on national television against a marquee playoff contender. They put up 112 points despite Thompson's rough shooting night and showed more tenacity on defense than they have in most games this season.