OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Warriors weren't going to beat the powerhouse Thunder anyway. The real question was in what fashion they'd lose.
In the grand scheme of things, Sunday's 119-109 loss to Oklahoma City was one they could swallow. Golden State shot the higher percentage (52.4 to 50.6) and hung with the Thunder on the boards (40-35). The Warriors kept their turnovers down, and their bench outscored Oklahoma City's.
So how did they trail by as much as 22 and walk away with a loss? To put it generally, Oklahoma City is superior.
"We played against a very good basketball team that went to the (NBA) finals last year," Golden State coach Mark Jackson said. "They have a couple of very special players.
"The thing that I pointed out to our guys is that this is a process, and they went through the same kind of experience and learned from it. It is important for us to do the same thing and continue to get better."
To put it specifically, the Warriors offense couldn't keep up with Oklahoma City's attack.
Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 22 points and six assists. David Lee finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Carl Landry's 14 points led a Warriors bench that had 47 points (to the Thunder's 40).
But much of the Warriors' offensive success came in the second half, after they got down big. And they got down big because they were helpless against the Thunder's stars.
Russell Westbrook finished with 30 points and six assists. Kevin Durant notched his first-career triple-double: 25 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Kevin Martin had 23 points off the bench.
Golden State was determined to keep the Thunder from scoring inside. Oklahoma City was outscored by 26 points in the paint but made up for that with good ball movement (31 assists) and the long ball. The Thunder knocked down 13 of 20 from 3-point range, many of them wide-open shots.
"If you stick to the game plan," Curry explained, "making them swing it to the weak side, and they're knocking down 3s, they're tough to beat."
The Warriors made a game of it late, sort of. Taking advantage of an odd lineup by Thunder coach Scott Brooks -- the only starter on the court was Thabo Sefalosha -- Golden State opened the fourth quarter with a 12-4 run. Jarrett Jack knocked down four pull-up jumpers over Martin, the latter cutting Oklahoma City's lead to 98-85 with 9:14 left.
Brooks called a timeout but still didn't bring back his stars, just Serge Ibaka. Golden State continued to chip away, rattling off eight straight after a Martin 3-pointer. Lee's putback made it 101-93 with 7:42 left. Not even two minutes later, a 3-pointer from the left wing by Curry had the Warriors within seven, 105-98.
"More than anything," Lee said, "I was just thinking, 'let's keep playing, let's keep playing. Let's keep doing what we've been doing. When we were down 17, we continued to play. We were down 12, we continued to play. Let's keep it going.' "
Oklahoma City countered with a jumper from Ibaka and a 3-pointer from Martin. About a minute later, a 3-pointer from the top by Durant pushed the Warriors' deficit to 115-102 with 2:58 left.
Jackson had seen enough. He pulled his starters, waiving the white flag.
The Warriors conclude their three-game road trip at Dallas on Monday night. They could salvage the road trip with a win, putting them back above .500. That would be huge considering five of the six games after this road trip are at Oracle Arena.
"We came here to get a win," Jackson said, "but there are some good signs. We're not satisfied, but we feel good about where we're headed and the things we're doing."
Jackson is growing more comfortable playing Green because of his size, versatility and basketball IQ. But Sunday, Green pulled out the offense. Taking advantage of being matched up against Martin, whom the Warriors successfully attacked all night long, Green made three straight baskets late in the first quarter to power a Warriors run that sent them into the second quarter down just 26-25.
"I definitely want to bring defense, rebounding, bring energy off the bench," the former Michigan State star said. "Get in where I fit in. Do the dirty work."