This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 6:00 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
Previous Meeting(s): Dec. 7th
Backstory: The Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder are two teams moving in two very opposite directions, with very different histories. The Thunder are a team on the up, finding ways to win even against the best teams. Their roster is healthy. Their ownership is stable and willing to provide cash. Fans come to sit in the seats even during ice storms, and the local media and general opinion is still in the honeymoon phase, not being able to say enough good about their hometown team. On the other hand, the Golden State Warriors are a team on the down. They have only 13 wins on the season, providing exciting, high-scoring games, but little to show for it. Their roster is plagued with injuries. Their ownership is tight on money, and might start literally selling off players before the deadline, if not sell the team itself. Attendance is good, but fans have long since grown cynical about their team, and it shows.
Even with all of this, I manage to be a fan of both teams. Well, almost. I come here with a confession to make. I haven't been watching Warriors games like I used to. I've watched the odd game here and there, like Stephen Jackson's return to the Oracle, but I haven't been able to religiously follow them as I have in the past. This isn't going to keep me from cheering from them in the Ford Center. Regardless of their current status, they'll always be my Number 1 team. But, if they're going to lose most games on a consistent basis, there's not much to see. Plus, I have responsibilities to watch Thunder games now, along with the fact that I own season tickets. I'll just say this: If I didn't run a blog, I'd probably still watch more Warrior games than I would Thunder games, even with my season tickets. But, sometimes, life just gets in the way.
Alright, sorry for that personal aside, but for some reason I felt I had to get it in there. In all reality, the Warriors don't pose much of a threat. They went on a crazy streak once where they beat Boston and Phoenix back to back, but in general they're a deeply flawed team, losing to everybody but the lowliest on the NBA.
Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Andris Biedrins
Both of them are from Eastern Europe, but they are very different players. Biedrins will suck up rebounds and defend well, but his shooting range is about 2 feet. Nenad Krstic can't defend or rebound, but he can shoot and set picks well. It's hard determining how this will come out, but expect Biedrins to get about a double double, and for Krstic to knock down a few jumpers.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Anthony Tolliver
I know Anthony Tolliver from Creighton more than I do from the NBA, and that's only because of his unusual name. Though I don't know much about the man, I know he has been an apt scorer from the Warriors out of the D-League. Somehow though, I think Jeff Green's solid defense will lead him to have a single digit scoring night, and I think Green can take advantage of the Warriors fast paced style sufficiently enough to have a good scoring night.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Corey Maggette
Corey Maggette has the uncanny ability to score in bunches, but almost entirely from the free throw line. Kevin Durant should have to be worried any time Maggette pulls up from beyond 15 feet, as those shots most likely won't go in. But if Maggette can get past Durant on a regular basis during his goal line charges to the basket, then the Thunder should be sufficiently worried enough to bulk up the interior defense. Regardless, expect Durant to have the better all-around game.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry is the epitome of a combo guard. He can score well, from almost everywhere on the floor. In addition, he can rebound well on certain days, and he throws out assists when he can. The only problem is that he's not a real initiator of ball movement, doesn't have good court-vision, and is prone to turnovers. He has flashes of brilliance here or there, but for now, he's pretty much stuck between the positions of shooting guard and point guard. Expect Sefolosha to pester him a bit, but not nearly enough.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis has recently gained notoriety for being a All-Star snub, because he scores lots of points. You know what I say to those who are calling him a snub? I say they're dead wrong. And if he played on your team, you'd know that you were dead wrong. Monta Ellis average 4 turnovers per game, and he's not all that great of a point guard. Granted, he's made small improvements over the years, as he used to just drive to the lane, whereas now he passes 10% of the time he drives to the lane. But I still don't think he's a legitimate point guard, he shoots really poorly from beyond the 3 point line, and he just makes bonehead decisions in general that run his team into the ground. Regardless of all that, both guards will have tough times against each other, so expect the turnovers to be high. In general, Ellis will have a better night because he's a primary scorer for his team.
Battle of the Benches:
The Warriors aren't afraid to use anybody off of their bench, so it's possible for anybody to step up and make an impact on the game. Nevertheless, I'd only seriously worry about C.J. Watson, a solid shooter, and Turiaf, somebody who is capable of beasting on the weak Thunder interior under the right circumstances. On the Thunder bench, expect Harden to have a big game, since he's primarily a scorer, and this is a scorer's game.
Coaching and Intangibles:
The Warriors have been constantly losing, while the Thunder have been at home and just scored a big win over the Nuggets. The Thunder might sleep a bit on the Warriors, but I'd still say the intangibles are in their favor.
The Thunder do have a penchant for losing to smaller teams, but this is only if the smaller team has a beast like DeJuan Blair or Joakim Noah in the paint. Andris Biedrins used to fit this description, but this season, he's not much more than a vaccum that sucks up rebounds, or a pole that blocks shots. The Warriors are also prone to frequently turning the ball over, not moving the ball adequately for a good shot, and missing oodles of shots even when they do get open. The Warriors have the talent, but not the teamwork. Thus, they will lose this game, as much as it pains me to say it.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 111, Golden State 101
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 teamWarriors on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. Go Thunder WARRIORS!