This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Net Bay Area
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Enemy Blog(s): Golden State of Mind
Backstory: Ah, the time has arrived.
It's my favourite time of year. The time of year where I get to cheer on my favourite team in the NBA against a crowd of enraged fans as they lose miserably against my other favourite team. I make a lot of enemies in the process, but a Thunder-Warriors game, for me, is truly a great spectacle to behold. No matter what, I win, and I always have a lot of fun. And, I know there are those of you who think I'm a traitor for cheering against the Thunder, but I don't care. I've been a Warriors fan ever since I was a young one, and they will remain my favourite team through thick and thin. I love the Thunder almost equally as much, but they'll just never take the place of the Warriors in my heart. You could lecture me all day about how they've been the worst team in the NBA over the past 15 years (correct), how the organization stinks (correct), how the players are punks (wrong), how Oakland is trashy (wrong), and how much better the Thunder are. But the fact remains that they're the team I was raised on, the team that has captured my love, and the team that I'll watch until I die.
And before I go on to the actual preview, I'd also like to give a big shout out to Golden State of Mind. I've been a loyal member of their community since they first moved to SB Nation and Mike Dunleavy and Derek Fisher were bricking treys on a regular basis. It's a huge honor to be on the same network as them, and a dream I've always had.
But, enough personal asides. Let us get to the analysis.
Who are the Warriors? Well, they're a very two-faced team. When they play well, they're a team with excellent ball movement that can drive the ball into the post when there are no open shots, and a team that can also run down the floor, and knock down the first open shot they get. When they play badly, oh man, do they play badly. It usually consists of a complete lack of scoring combined with them shooting bad, completely guarded jumpers within the first few seconds of the shot clock, leading to large deficits. It's usually a result of exhaustion and a lack of big men. You might think that the bad Warriors show up more often than not, and they do, but it's not because of a lack of talent. This team has seen more injuries than the Mexican Army as they tried to take the Alamo. 3 of their big men, Biedrins, Turiaf, and Wright are all out with injuries. Both of their off-season acquisitions, Devean George and Speedy Claxton, are out as well. Heck, even Raja Bell, who came in a trade, has needed hand surgery, and to make it all complete, Kelenna Azubuike was out with surgery, and Anthony Morrow was recently out to attend a funeral. This left the team with 8 active players (including Forward Chris Hunter, who was called up from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants out of desperation). This is nothing new for the Warriors, as Azubuike himself was a D-League find in a similar time of trouble. Rather, it is just another chapter in the book of a team of injuries, bad draft picks, bad management, bad coaching, and just overall futility. Anthony Morrow will be back for tonight's game at the Ford Center, but Don Nelson won't make the trip. Can a team of 9 guys and an assistant coach overcome the hungry Thunder?
Well, anything is possible. The Thunder are coming off of a bad loss against the Celtics, but that's the exception rather than the rule. They've been known to put the lower-echelon teams when they've needed to, but they've also been known to play them tight into the second half. When you've facing the Warriors, who are capable of going on huge runs all at once, it's a dangerous thing to do.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Center: Nick Collison vs. Mikki Moore (Possibly Anthony Randolph)
Mikki Moore did well in garbage time against the Thunder last year when he played for Boston, but I wouldn't expect a repeat performance tonight. He's been useless in every sense of the word when he's played for the Warriors, missing open layups, fouling far too often, and not rebounding as much as they'd like him to. There are very few matchups where Nick Collison can legitimately eat someone alive, but this is one of them. Expect at least a double double.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Vladamir Radmanovic (Possibly Anthony Randolph)
Again, this matchup provides a huge advantage for the Thunder. Jeff Green always beats power forwards that are smaller than him, and then though "the rad man" is 6'10", he's a defensive and offensive post softie. He'll hit a few threes and grab a couple of rebounds just because of he sheer amounts of shots being taken, but don't expect him to put up nearly as good of numbers as Green will.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Monta Ellis
Well, this is a matchup I never thought I'd see in my day. Kevin Durant against Monta Ellis? It will never sound right in my head, but apparently, it's about to happen. As they're both mains scorers for their respective teams, and seeing as how neither have excellent defense, expect a huge scorefest tonight from both players, with Durant racking up more rebounds and blocks and Ellis racking up more assists and steals. Sounds kind of obvious, but what else am I supposed to say?
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Anthony Morrow
Anthony Morrow can score from all over the floor, but he's mainly a shooter. That being said, he'll probably perform a little below par if he has to play against Sefolosha, since Sefolosha closes out on shooters pretty well. He won't be shut out though, because he'll probably be on the floor for some of the time Sefolosha will be on the bench, and it's hard keeping such an elite scorer down.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry has been one of the leagues best Rookies this year. Widely considered to be the Warriors future Point Guard, he can score from anywhere on the floor and pass it smoothly to the right guy with the style and grace of a veteran. Russell Westbrook can do that too, but without the great shooting.
Battle of the Benches:
The Warrior's bench, while depleted, is better than you think. Hunter is pretty useless, but Maggette is great at getting to the line when he wants to, and C.J. Watson scores well in spurts. Most importantly, Anthony Randolph, coming off of a 28 Points, 13 Rebound, and 5 Assist performance against Orlando, looks poised for greatness. He's the Warriors best kept secret, and easily owns anybody we have on our bench, including Ibaka, Wilks, and Harden.
Coaching and Intangibles:
The Warriors don't have Don Nelson, who has known to be a bit silly with his player management, but they will get tired. Not because they've had 5 games in their last 9 days, but simply because they play such a tiring game and only have 9 guys to play it. It can be evidenced by the Magic suddenly and dramatically going on a 15-0 run at the end of the last game while the Warriors were firing up well-guarded duds. On top of that, they have a horrible record, and they're playing in the Ford Center. Most everything is on the Thunder's side.
I would shout with joy if the Warriors won this game, but it's just not going to happen. They've made big runs against every team under the sun, but shown a huge inability to close those same games. Also, most of the teams they've been able to compete with have consisted largely of outside shooters, while the Thunder are mainly a inside scoring team. All in all, it will be close for a while, but the game will end quietly, with most of the fans filing out with 3 minutes to go and the Thunder having won by 10.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 122, Golden State 112
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I'll be in the Ford Center cheering the team Warriors on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. Go Thunder WARRIORS!