Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Cox Sports Television
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KMEZ 106.7 FM
The Thunder take on the Golden State Warriors tonight to try and get back in the win column. As we reported earlier, the Thunder are going to definitively be without Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha tonight, and there is a strong likelihood that Kevin Durant will not be at full capacity. While Perkins' absence should not set OKC back too much, Sefolosha's injury may once again influence the outcome. If you recall from the last game, Monta Ellis scored a career high 48 points against the Thunder perimeter defense and Ellis came a short-rimmed 3-pointer away from giving the Warriors the upset victory. He will again be looking to score on the Thunder defense, and it will be interesting to see if OKC can prevent him from finding his shooting zone tonight.
Ellis' scoring prowess aside, I actually think that David Lee is going to be the key cog in tonight's game. In the last game, Lee recorded a triple double, scoring 25 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and handing out 10 assists. It was he that actually made Ellis' game possible and possibly repeatable, as he continued to pull the defense away from the rim and give Ellis room to score. Someone, perhaps Nick Collison, is going to have to play Lee much more physically and not give him either the passing lanes or open 15 footer that he can knock down with regularity.
Kevin Durant is the wild card tonight. According to reports he either has some sort of stomach flu or he ate too many chicken wings. In any event, he may not be at full strength. If Durant is able to play, his defense will probably be the area that suffers the most, which isn't actually the worst thing in the world since nobody seems to play defense in OKC-GS games anyway. If he can go tonight, I would look for Coach Scott Brooks to use him in a closer-type role. OKC needs to keep the game close and slowed down and when the end is nigh, integrate Durant into the offense and let him use up his energy reserves there.
If Durant cannot give his normal level of production, the Thunder are going to have to turn to their cadre of reserves on the bench. Fortunately for them, they all got some playing time this past week. The best thing guys like Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, Royal Ivey, and Reggie Jackson can do is focus on their defense. The Warriors have two small and quick guards; it would be great to see Ivey and Jackson get a shot at slowing them down. Now is the time for these young guys to take a chance and win a game for their injured leaders.
If all else fails, OKC still has that other All-Star player on the court too.
Prediction: Thunder 95, Warriors 92