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 New Myriad, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Net Bay Area
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KNBR 680
Previous Meeting(s): None.
While this matchup might seem rather pedestrian to anyone else looking at it from afar, to me, this is my Super Bowl. As a long time Warriors fan, it's always nice to see my team come to Oklahoma City and play my other favourite team, the Thunder.
But aside from my personal preference, this should be a good matchup. The Warriors are a team that has been a sinking ship over the past few weeks, initially losing David Lee to injury and then having to deal with tough western conference opponents in San Antonio and Phoenix after his return. All in all, they're 1-7 over the past 8 games, and 8-11 overall. Saying they need this win before they go up against Dallas, San Antonio, and Miami later this week is an understatement.
Meanwhile, the Thunder have their own problems. Kevin Durant has been out in the past two games, and the Thunder have endured an extremely close call with the Nets and a sizable loss to the Raptors. Kevin Durant should be back tonight, but if the Thunder do end up losing this one, people might start to question the team's strategy.
For the Thunder, mission #1 should be to stop EITHER Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry. It's rare that both have offensive problems, but if you can hold one of them to less than 20 points, you should win the game. Every time one of them has failed to get to 20 points, the Warriors have lost the game.
Below: Exceptions, Controlling the Pace, Clogging the Paint, How the Game Will Go, Prediction!
There are only three exceptions to this rule. Both had 20 points when the Warriors lost 119-125 against the Knicks, and when they lost 111-116 against the Grizzlies but I doubt our game will be such a high-scoring contest. And both failed to get to 20 points against the Clippers, but that game ended with an anomaly of a third quarter run.
Another key to the game will be to control the pace and keep our leads. Unfortunately for us, this isn't the Warriors team of the past that would play their type of offense come hell or high water, and hope that you would bow down and play on their level. This team will actually adjust and play your pace, as evidenced by their low-scoring affairs against Utah and Milwaukee. However, this team is still capable of going on huge scoring runs, so when the Thunder do take a 10 point lead, they should do whatever they can to sustain it. Get fouled. Call a timeout. Whatever. Because they could easily find themselves in a 10 point hole if they let the Warriors run free.
Lastly, the Thunder need to do all they can to clog the paint. That means having three defenders on the strong side of any half court set, getting back in transition, and watching out for picks. The Warriors will very rarely take mid-range shots, and they're very bad at free throw shooting. So if you force this team to go to the line and kick the ball out for threes all of the time, you could find yourself slowly amassing a lead.
In my opinion though, the Warriors are screwed. They don't play very well against teams that want to beat you defensively and have some of the league's best individual scorers. The Warriors team defense may have improved, but they're not very good at shutting down individual players. Thus, while I'll be cheering my heart out for the Warriors tonight, I'm predicting a 10 point thunder victory.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 108, Golden State 98