Lessons learned in Thunder's improbable comeback at Golden State
SAN FRANCISCO — The Thunder was in desperate need of its first road win, and the makeshift Warriors, inside their $1.4 billion Chase Center, had been dishing them out on clearance.
But for much of Monday night, a Thunder road victory felt far from practically free.
Warriors fans who had grown so accustomed to NBA Finals games were ready to erupt for a three-win team in late November. Ky Bowman scored a career-high 24 points. Glenn Robinson III scored a career-high 25 points. Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole and Omari Spellman all joined in on the fun.
And still the Warriors lost, handing the Thunder a 100-97 win Monday night. It was Oklahoma City’s first road victory of the season after an 0-6 start away from home. It was an improbable comeback — a 13-0 Thunder run to end the game — and the continuation of a well-played Warriors tanking job.
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“The coaches challenged us at halftime, told us our defense was basically bogus,” Thunder point guard Chris Paul said. “So we tried to pick up the intensity in the second half, but we gotta find a way to not have to get challenged to make it like that.”
Golden State led by 14 points early in the fourth quarter before the Thunder squeezed all signs of offense out of the eight-man squad. The Warriors made one shot in the final six minutes. Robinson III’s 3-pointer with 3:18 left put Golden State ahead by 10, but that was the final bucket on its ledger.
The Thunder (6-10) had fired blanks on wide open looks to dig its deficit, but it made four shots on five attempts to end the game. Paul’s 18-foot fadeaway with 36 seconds left was the game winner, but two defensive plays from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sealed OKC’s win.
Gilgeous-Alexander poked an inbound pass away from Bowman and then paid it off with a layup with 1:18 left in the game. He then blocked Poole’s game-tying attempt at the buzzer.
“We’ve been talking about Shai being competitive on the defensive end, and he’s got it,” Paul said. “His length, his knack for knowing the game, it was good to see him not only get that block but make them free throws.”
The Thunder arrived in San Francisco 0-7 in games decided by five points or fewer. Winning, even against the Warriors, meant something. Especially for OKC’s inexperienced players who could only associate close games with losses.
“I think it’s great,” Danilo Gallinari said. “It’s a learning process for all the young guys. And I’m glad that we were able to win because you read the game, you learn from the game but you also have more confidence going into the next game.”
Gallinari scored 15 points, including the final assist to Paul. Paul scored 20 points and reserve point guard Dennis Schroder led the Thunder with 22 points off the bench.
Still, the lessons from Monday night were not clear. The Thunder finally secured its first road win, but how should that be weighed against the lack of urgency that allowed the Warriors to build such a lead in the first place?
“Listen, it’s really hard to win an NBA game,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Home or on the road. Obviously they’ve got a lot of pride here. They did not have a full complement of players. We were playing against a team that was short-handed, but we’ve struggled on the road, and we’ve struggled the last several games. So I’m never gonna be disappointed, or upset or mad about a win.”