This was one of those games that, for Warriors fans, brings as much frustration as it does excitement.
Golden State knocked off one of the best teams in the Western Conference on Sunday, topping Oklahoma City 100-94 at Oracle Arena. The Warriors did it by controlling the boards. They did it with dominant guard play. They did it by playing solid defense.
But Sunday's victory could make one wonder: Why can't the Warriors play like that every game?
"We're a good team," point guard Stephen Curry said. "We just have some slip-ups where we don't perform as well."
The same Warriors who have beaten Utah twice, Chicago and now Oklahoma City also have lost to losing teams such as Charlotte and Houston at home. Just last week, Golden State lost twice to Phoenix, at team that's been at or below .500 most of the season.
A game such as Sunday's can make you wonder how.
Warriors forward David Lee dominated with 23 points and a season-high 19 rebounds. Curry finished with 23 points and 13 assists with no turnovers, and also helped limit Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook to 21 points on 6-for-14 shooting with six turnovers. Guard Monta Ellis finished with 33 points on 25 shots with seven assists, outshining Thunder star Kevin Durant, who finished with 29 points on 10-for-21 shooting.
Oklahoma City was playing the second game of a back-to-back set.
"Can we just win the game?" Warriors coach Keith Smart pleaded.
One peculiar stat sums up Sunday's game: Golden State took 40 more shots than Oklahoma City.
Credit that disparity to the Golden State dominating the boards and forcing turnovers. The Warriors forced 20 miscues, which limited the Thunder's attempts. And the Warriors earned extra shots with 20 offensive rebounds. Oklahoma City's two offensive rebounds tied Golden State's franchise record for fewest allowed. Phoenix grabbed just two against the Warriors in March 1980.
"Our big guys did a wonderful job," Ellis said. "They got us a lot of second-chance points (22). If we get them to play like that for the rest of the way, who knows what we could do."
The game was still tight down the stretch. The Warriors turned to their star guards to put away the Thunder. Ellis had 12 points and four assists in the final quarter, and Curry had five assists.
Golden State's 10-point fourth-quarter lead was down to 86-85 just inside the three-minute mark after Westbrook dropped in a pull-up 3-pointer right before the shot clock expired. But Ellis powered a quick 5-0 run by the Warriors -- nailing a 3-pointer and setting up a fast-break dunk for forward Dorell Wright -- to put the lead at 91-85.
Oklahoma City was back within 93-92 after a 3-pointer by forward Jeff Green at the 1:07 mark. But Curry, whom Ellis said played perhaps his best game of the season, took control down the stretch.
He drove and heaved a cross-court pass to swingman Reggie Williams, who knocked down a 3-pointer for a 96-92 lead. After two free throws by Durant, Curry got in the lane and found Lee for a dunk, putting the Warriors back up by four with 21.2 seconds left.
Lee sealed the win in a fitting fashion. After Durant's missed 3, he came up with the critical rebound in traffic to hold Oklahoma City to one attempt.
"I took a long look at the loss in Phoenix on how we have been playing," Lee said, "and I thought one category that I could step up in was in rebounding and try to lead that charge. We did that (Sunday) against a good rebounding team and an athletic team in Oklahoma City."
Question is, can they do it every night?
Notes: Sunday marked the 10th game with at least 20 points and 10 assists in Curry's career. It was the most assists by a Warrior player without a turnover since Baron Davis had 14 against San Antonio in January 2008. "... The Warriors had 18 more offensive rebounds than the Thunder, which tied the biggest discrepancy in the NBA this season. "... Ellis topped 30 points for the 15th time this season.
New Orleans (33-23) at Warriors (24-29), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA