Monta Ellis scored 27 points in his return following a two-week absence, Stephen Curry added 25 and the Golden State Warriors overcame a 20-point deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-117 on Sunday night.
The Warriors missed three free throws in the final 53 seconds but held on to win when Kevin Durant’s 3-point attempt with a second left bounced off the back of the rim.
Durant finished with 40 points for Oklahoma City, which dropped into the eighth seed in the Western Conference with two games remaining. The Thunder are tied for sixth with Portland and San Antonio, but the Blazers and Spurs hold the tiebreakers.
That could be critical as the three teams try to avoid a first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, who lost to Portland on Sunday.
That put the Thunder in position of needing to beat Golden State to hang onto their one-game lead for the sixth seed. Instead, after scoring 31 points in the first 7 minutes, Oklahoma City’s offense went cold while allowing the Warriors to post their second-largest comeback of the season.
Both Ellis and Curry missed key free throws in the final 29 seconds, but the Thunder — who will play at Portland on Monday night — committed two turnovers and couldn’t get off an uncontested shot over the final 1:11.
Warriors coach Don Nelson was honored during a pregame ceremony commemorating his 1,333rd career victory last week, which moved him past Lenny Wilkens for the top spot on the NBA’s wins list. Video tributes from fellow coaches Pat Riley, Larry Brown and others also played on the scoreboard hanging above midcourt throughout the game.
Oklahoma City’s focus, though, was on the playoffs and Durant’s pursuit of the NBA’s scoring title.
The second-year forward topped the 30-point plateau for the 45th time this season — tops in the NBA — while improving his average to 30.1 points. James, who sat out his third straight game in the Cavs’ 98-92 loss to Orlando on Sunday, is at 29.7.
Durant had 18 in the first quarter but scored sporadically after that, finishing 13 of 29 from the floor — including 3 of 8 from 3-point range.
Russell Westbrook added 20 points and James Harden had 18 for the Thunder, who led 71-56 early in the third quarter before Ellis led the Warriors back.
Playing for the first time since March 27 after being sidelined with the flu, Ellis scored nine straight points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that gave Golden State a 111-109 lead. Durant answered with a 21-foot jumper to tie the game but the Warriors made five free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
NOTES: The Thunder need one victory to reach the 50-win mark for the first time since 2004-05 when the franchise was in Seattle. That was also the last year the team made the playoffs. ... Oklahoma City failed to sweep the four-game season-series from Golden State, losing at Oracle Arena since Feb. 21, 2009. ... The 42 points by the Thunder matched the most the Warriors have given up in the first quarter this season. Orlando scored 42 against Golden State on Dec. 5, 2009.