OAKLAND -- In hindsight, it's only fitting the Warriors would close the first half of the season with a thrilling 104-99 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, owners of the NBA's best record.
The Warriors' record after the first 41 games (26-15) is nothing short of improbable. It was prompted by great play from their two stars, improved defense and contributions up and down the lineup.
Ditto for Wednesday night's victory.
You kept expecting Thunder star Kevin Durant -- who finished with 33 points and nine assists -- to do something to put the Warriors in their place. But it never happened.
Point guard Stephen Curry carried the Warriors to crunchtime. Then when his shot escaped him, and with Oklahoma City paying special attention to him, Curry watched his teammates pick up the slack. Forward David Lee scored seven points in the fourth quarter and finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Backup forward Carl Landry had eight points and five rebounds in the final quarter, finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds.
Rookie forward Harrison Barnes made Durant work for all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter and helped prompt one of the NBA's best into four turnovers over the final eight minutes.
"Everybody's pitching in to do their part," Barnes said. "That's been kind of the story of this year."
The Warriors hit the halfway mark on pace for a 52-win season. And that's without starting center Andrew Bogut for all but
"We're continuing to get better," Lee said. "We've played hard basketball for about a week and a half and got through a tough part of our schedule. We came back and got another big win at home. We had a great crowd and decided to go out there and do what we do."
Oklahoma City was doing what it does best most of the first half.
Led by Durant, the Thunder seemed to get any shot it wanted. At the half, Oklahoma City was leading 57-52, shooting 56.4 percent from the field and had 15 assists on 22 baskets. Durant had 18 points on eight shots with eight assists in the half.
But Curry took over in the third quarter. He got going with a 3-pointer early. Then with just under seven minutes left, he knocked down back-to-back pull-up jumpers, tying the game at 65.
He got loose down the right sideline in transition before leaning in for a bank shot, and the foul, giving the Warriors a 72-68 lead.
Curry had a chance to really bring the house down but missed three straight 3-pointers, all of them good looks. Oklahoma City closed the third quarter with an 11-4 run to take a 79-76 lead into the fourth quarter.
Curry scored 27 points in his first 27 minutes of action. Even though he missed 10 of his 13 3-point attempts, he was drawing traps and help defense.
That meant his teammates had to carry the load down the stretch. And they did.
The Warriors trailed by one point inside of four minutes left. Guard Klay Thompson put Golden State ahead with a finger roll in the lane. Landry put the Warriors up 97-94 when he put back his own miss with 2:25 left.
Kendrick Perkins tapped in Durant's missed fall-away, but Jarrett Jack answered with a rainbow pull-up over Durant, and Golden State led 99-96.
Two free throws by Durant cut the lead to one. But Curry, on a rare late touch, drew a double-team and found Lee for a layup, giving the Warriors a 101-98 advantage with 1:19 left.
Golden State got a stop but had that negated by a Lee turnover. Durant split a pair of free throws. And Curry, who had been a decoy all quarter, had a chance for a dagger 3-pointer. But he missed the wide-open look at the top of the key, giving the Thunder another chance.
Durant, facing a trap off the pick-and-roll, tried to slip a pass to Perkins in the lane. But Curry did his best Dashon Goldson impersonation and intercepted the pass.
His ensuing free throws put the Warriors up 103-99 and sealed the victory.
"It would've great if Steph Curry knocks down one of those threes," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said, "and people go crazy and all of sudden we're up four or five and the game is over. But the special thing about it is we missed the shot and we had to win the game on the defensive end.
"We showed that we were committed, buckled up and we got the stops that we needed. That's Warriors basketball."
Curry finished with 31 points and seven assists.
"Last year, I don't know what their record was," Durant said before tipoff at Oracle Arena. "But coming from out of the playoffs to the fifth seed, I think both of them should go."
Coaches, who vote for the All-Star reserves, had to turn their ballots in by Wednesday morning. Before the Warriors hosted the Thunder in the evening, there were already rumors the two Warriors were among those selected to the West All-Star team.
The reserves for each conference will be announced at 4 p.m. Thursday on TNT. The popular expectation is that Golden State will get at least one All-Star, the franchise's first since being represented by Latrell Sprewell in 1997.
For their part, both players said they're trying to focus on the games. But both acknowledged how special it would be for them to go together.
"I'm not a guy that is going to sit up here and toot the horn of guys that don't deserve it," Jackson said. "I never said last year that anyone of my guys should have been an All-Star because, quite honestly, they should not have been. That being said, I have two guys on my team that it would be wrong and a disservice if they are not on the All-Star team.
"The way they conduct themselves, what they have done in this league, and they've been as good as anyone at their positions if you look at the numbers and wins. If justice truly prevails, those guys will be in the All-Star game."
The All-Star game is Feb. 17 at Houston. "
Warriors (26-15) at Chicago (25-16), 5 p.m. CSNBA