Schröder Puts On For O-City, Thunder Dismantles Warriors
By: Addam Francisco, Senior Writer
The highly touted matchup between two rivals, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors hasn't held as much weight through the first two matchups due to injuries. On Thanksgiving-eve, the Thunder entered the reputably hostile Oracle Arena and maintained their confidence and newfound aggressive identity en route to an eventual dismantling of the defending NBA champions, 123-95, thanks to a well-balanced attack...and Dennis Schröder.
Earlier in the season, Russell Westbrook was absent for the first matchup between the two teams due to him recovering from an off-season knee procedure. The Thunder lost that game by 8 points but the majority of the general public was still impressed with the way this team played. The second time around, Golden State's Draymond Green and Stephen Curry were unable to suit up due to injuries, thus the Warriors weren't at full strength.
Both teams got off to a slow start offensively, as if their nerves or anticipation got to them. Neither team shot higher than 38 percent in the opening quarter and couldn't muster up more than 25 points. Oklahoma City led 23-18 after the first and Steven Adams had his way with Damian Jones after scoring a relatively effortless 6 points, the one bright spot for the Thunder during the first 12 minutes.
The offense picked up for both teams in the second quarter. Golden State's Klay Thompson found his shot, initiating the first run with 8 points in four possessions which tied the game at 26. The Thunder fell behind at the 8:55 mark of the period until Schröder went on a 10-2 run single-handedly propelling the Thunder back in front of the Warriors in only two minutes. That offensive onslaught seemed to fuel the offense for the rest of the Thunder for the remainder of the half.
While Westbrook struggled offensively, particularly in the first half, Schröder picked up the slack. After his run, he assisted twice to Steven Adams, who was in the midst of a dry spell offensively, resulting in 6-straight points for him. After scoring only 6 points through the first 18 minutes of the game, Adams totaled 16 points and 9 rebounds as the Thunder finished the half on a 31-15 run, leading the Warriors 60-46 at intermission.
Halfway through the third quarter, Golden State went on an energized and inspired run, trimming OKC 14-point halftime lead to 3 at one point but the Thunder showed resilience, sticking to what was working and continued to withstand each run Golden State attempted to initiate.
With the self-realization that Westbrook wasn't going to have a high scoring, gaudy stat-line, he really started looking for ways to get the ball to his teammates in scoring position. He tallied four of his 11 assists in the third quarter and was a nuisance on the defensive end. Something that didn't show up in the box score was Westbrook initiating ball-movement.
Early in the fourth, the Warriors were still hanging around and carved the Thunder lead back down to four points. Just like he did the entire game, though, Schröder came to OKC's rescue with instant offense. After assisting to Nerlens Noel, bringing the score to 91-85, he led the Thunder to victory by jump-starting another enormous run, this time a 34-10 run to solidify a lop-sided victory and their 11th win in 13 games.
Schröder had one of his best NBA performances as Westbrook's backup, in one of the most hostile environments in the NBA. He scored 35 points and added 4 assists on 12-of-19 shooting, including a career-high 5-of-6 from three. Paul George wasn't mentioned much but played a vital role in each of the Thunder's runs. George scored 25 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and added two steals. Adams ended up with 20 points and 11 points on 9-of-14 shooting and Jerami Grant had a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists. Westbrook found a way to record his first triple-double of the season, despite an off shooting night with 11 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.
Oklahoma City is in the middle of a tight early-season lineup of the Western Conference's top 10 teams. With only 2.5 games separating 1-10, the Thunder currently sit fourth. They face a three-game home stand with the Charlotte Hornets coming to the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Black Friday.