Warriors lean on All-Stars, Cook & Jones in win against Thunder

Martes 03 de Abril del 2018

Warriors lean on All-Stars, Cook & Jones in win against Thunder

Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green

Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Warriors lack healthy bodies. They still have a surplus of All-Stars, though. The Warriors also have two players that can handle a pressure-filled moment after spending the past year mostly in the G-League.

So with the Warriors missing Stephen Curry and a handful of key reserves, the Warriors survived against an Oklahoma City Thunder team with a 111-107 victory on Tuesday by relying on two formulas.

As expected, Kevin Durant (34 points), Klay Thompson (20) and Draymond Green (five points, eight assists, four rebounds) assumed most of the responsibility. In what became a pleasant development, Quinn Cook took another area of growth (12 points, six assists), while second-year center Damian Jones took advantage of his first extended playing time (eight points on 4-of-4 shooting in 15 minutes).

“It’s a lot easier to play when you have three All-Stars on the floor and everybody else can fill in around them,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

As a result, the Warriors became the first Western Conference team to beat the Warriors three times in the regular season since the 2014-15 campaign. The Warriors (57-21) also provided encouraging signs on how they would match up against the Thunder (45-34) in the first round of the playoffs without Curry. While the Warriors remained locked in on the No. 2 seed after collecting their third consecutive win, the Thunder fell to sixth place with three regular-season games remaining.

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“It would be a fun and incredible matchup,” Durant said. “They’re physical, play hard and get in passing lanes. We have to take care of the basketball. It’ll be a fun series, especially playing in Oklahoma City again and that atmosphere in the playoffs. It’s always fun.”

It became fun in the last regular-season matchup, too.

The Warriors still had to absorb trading three lead changes and four times. They still had to absorb the seemingly inevitable onslaught from Russell Westbrook (44 points on 15-of-26 shooting). They also had to absorb the Thunder taking an 81-80 lead with 1:57 left in the third quarter after last leading midway through the second quarter.

Still, Warriors prevailed by relying on both their All-Stars and emerging players in key moments.

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Durant drilled a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 97-93 lead with 4:58 left. Nearly 14 seconds later, Durant set up Jones for a bucket. Durant committed a costly turnover that set up Corey Brewer for a dunk to cut the Warriors’ lead to 107-105 with 18.1 seconds left. Durant also shot only 9-of-25 from the field after opening the first quarter with 15 points on a 4-of-8 clip. Yet, Durant offset that with timely shots, a 14-of-14 mark from the free-throw line,10 rebounds and four assists.

“I was definitely frustrated by that. But I just kept playing and kept trying to make winning basketball plays each possession and cheer my guys on and encourage the team,” Durant said. Just be me. In the past when I was a younger player, I would let that affect me with making or missing shots dictate how I play. I tried to stay in it.”

In his third game since missing the previous eight with a fractured right thumb, Thompson shot 9-of-19 from the field and still exerted energy to hustle on defense against Paul George, who had 20 points on only 5-of-19 shooting.

“They missed some shots. But we tried to make them beat us one-on-one,” Thompson said. “We have some great one on one defense. They got all NBA players and can make shots and make plays. But we never get deterred and we always stay the course.”

No one epitomized staying the course more than Jones and Cook.

Jones spent most of his season this year in Santa Cruz, but he became available amid the Warriors nursing absences to Andre Iguodala (left knee) and Kevon Looney (flu). Jones appeared comfortable fulfilling different roles, including throwing down lobs, defending Thunder center Steven Adams and setting screens. Afterwards, the Warriors gave Jones a round-of-applause in the locker room.

“I felt ready. I’ve been playing all year and hooping down there. That was preparing me for this moment to go out there and play basketball,” Jones said. “It’s definitely a confidence builder. It lets you know you can do some things on the court. Just trying to build off of that.”

Cook has managed to do that. After assuming the starting point guard spot amid Stephen Curry’s overlapping injuries this month to his right ankle and left knee, Cook has cemented himself on the team’s playoff roster. Thompson also credited Cook for having “ice in his veins” when he made two fouls shots that gave the Warriors a 109-105 lead with 18.71 seconds remaining. Kerr hardly sounded surprised.

“I’m living my dream. I’m playing in the NBA. There’s no better feeling,” Cook said. “It makes my job so much easier. I just tried to get those guys the ball and stay aggressive and make those guys’ jobs easier to be aggressive.”

One of those gus was Green, whom the Warriors coaching staff jokingly referred to former NBA point guard Mateen Cleaves during morning shootaround. Then during the game, Green excelled at the point forward position. He often ran the offense both in halfcourt and in transition. When Thompson and Nick Young picked up two fouls in the first quarter, Green played a bit at point guard. Green also made a pair of foul shots that gave the Warriors a 111-107 cushion with 10.1 seconds left.

“Just go knock them down like any other free throw you take,” Green said. “You make more of the situation, but it’s just two free throws. It’s like taking a free throw in practice.”

As far as beating the Thunder overall? That proved much harder. Yet, the Warriors still found a way. Thankfully they had three All-Stars and two developing players that could thrive on both offense and defense against a team that might be the Warriors’ first-round opponent.

“It was a great win being shorthanded and on the road against a team that we could play and a team that is fighting for playoff position,” Kerr said. “It’s a hell of a win, especially without all of those guards. I loved it.”

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