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OAKLAND -- Returning to Oracle Arena weary from their fourth multiple-city road trip in five weeks, with their franchise-record win streak relegated to history, the Warriors on Thursday night were confronted by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant.
Welcome home, Warriors, beware the wolf at your doorstep.
With Durant dropping in 3-pointers with the ease of layups, the Warriors trailed 17 (30-13) less then seven minutes into the game. KD, with 16 points in the first 5 1/2 minutes, was on a ravenous scoring binge.
"He's unguardable when he gets that shot going,'' Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of the reigning MVP.
But the Warriors also have a practically unstoppable player. When Stephen Curry gets his shot going, he can single-handedly shrink a sizable deficit.
Curry and the Warriors needed only 10 minutes to wipe out the 17-point deficit and four more minutes to build their own eight-point lead. A 47-22 run spanning the first and second quarters, led by 14 points from Curry, kick-started a 114-109 victory that snapped OKC's seven-game win streak.
[RECAP: Warriors strike Thunder, win 114-109]
"We've got a bunch of gunslingers on our team," Kerr said. "You fall down 17 and the other team is making everything and you know that the way to get back in it is to turn up the pace and tempo and dig in defensively."
The Warriors during their extended run held the Thunder to 36.4 percent shooting (8 of 22) while also forcing six turnovers. Once again, as they so often did during their 16-game win streak, the Warriors used defense to ignite the offense. They torched the nets at a 63.3 percent (19 of 30) rate.
"If you relax (on defense), it's a three,'' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "If you relax on offense, it’s a turnover. So you have to focus every time down the court, because this team is very skilled. They're as good as any team in the league."
[RELATED: NBA standings]
The Warriors (22-3) survived the early blast and recovered to finally put away the Thunder, who were without Durant in the second half. After becoming the first player since the NBA-ABA merger to score at least 30 points in fewer than 20 minutes, Durant sprained his right ankle in the second quarter and did not return.
"He wouldn't miss," Curry said of Durant's 10-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-6 3-pointers. "And they were up big numbers in the first half. We had to do a lot to get back into the game. We just wanted to hold the fort down as much as we could while he was doing what he was doing, because we were hoping it wouldn't last the whole game."
Once Durant left for good, it was up to his Thunder co-star, Russell Westbrook, to carry the load. He did quite well, but could not sustain it through the final minutes.
The Warriors, to be sure, barely held on. They didn't put away OKC (12-14, 7-2 since Durant and Westbrook returned to the lineup) until Harrison Barnes swished a turnaround jumper with 17.3 seconds remaining to provide the final score.
"They came out and kind of blitzed us in that first quarter," Shaun Livingston said. "We knew that's what they were going to do. They're a great team, just kind of putting the pieces back together. You just have to play a 48-minute game with them."
Said Kerr: "More than anything, our guys were tired. It's been a long stretch with a lot of games and not that much practice time with a couple trips back east. These next few days off are really coming at the right time for us. Hopefully, we can recharge the batteries and get it going again."
THE GOOD: Curry flirted with a triple double: 34 points, nine assists, seven rebounds. He also added four steals.
Draymond Green, often playing center, snuggled up to a triple-double: 16 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
The Warriors limited OKC to 26 of 61 shooting (42.6 percent) after the first quarter.
The Warriors recorded 32 assists on 48 baskets. They've surpassed the 30-assist mark a league-high seven times.
THE BAD: The first quarter defense was, well, shredded. OKC scored 40 points, the most the Warriors have allowed in any quarter this season.
THE TAKE: The Warriors were stunned early. They wobbled. The staggered. They shook off the cobwebs and went on the attack. They went from being helpless against Durant's onslaught to matching his every move.
They served notice that, with or without Andrew Bogut, they will not roll over. The Warriors continue to showcase not only their roster flexibility but also a mental toughness that has grown over the years. This team is never out of a game, not until it's over and the score reflects that the other team proved itself more deserving.