After a terrible loss to the Clippers on Wednesday night, the Thunder look to rebound as they travel up to the Bay Area. The Golden State Warriors await them as one of the most hyped teams heading into this season. Some off-season maneuvering managed to land the team Andre Iguodala in Free Agency. The consequences of that move were the departures of Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, but Warriors fans didn't seem to mind. The franchise that's been a perennial doormat was finally making moves to win!
This new-look team has had mixed results so far. They generally play a fast paced, high scoring game that revolves around their excellent array of scorers. Stephen Curry is the team's unquestioned leader, anchored by fellow long-distance bomber Klay Thompson and the post-capable David Lee. Andre Iguodala isn't as much of a scorer, but his lock-down defense and excellent distribution abilities have helped this team more than points ever could have. He's acting as the defacto backup point guard in most cases, and hasn't really failed to produce.
The team's disappointment probably centers around Harrison Barnes, who has had to deal with injury issues early in the season. He's struggled to return to his old shooting form, and hasn't been the X-Factor off the bench that the Warriors need. Andrew Bogut has also not lived up to his offensive potential, playing as a shadow of the center that once scored plentifully in Milwaukee.
When you look at the Warriors as a whole, there's one singular problem that they've run into in all of their losses. They turn over the ball way too much. You might think this comes from having Iguodala as a backup PG, but Curry has had some massive problems too, finishing his game against the Clips with 9 Assists and 11 Turnovers. However, last year, the Warriors didn't have a lot of turnover problems against the Thunder, unless you count the shellacking the Dubs took when they were forced to fly into Tulsa and take Taxis to OKC at 4 AM. Rather, the Warriors actually struggled in the rebounding category. With Lee and Bogut in the paint it seems like a strange thing to happen, but the Thunder just got too many second chance buckets and were able to capitalize.
Does the presence of Iguodala change anything? Well, not really. Iguodala has historically struggled against the Thunder, not dealing well with Sefolosha's tough brand of defense. He finished with 12 points or less in all four of the Nuggets' games against the Thunder last season, all of which saw at least one team finish wil over 100 points. He also shot less than 40% from the field in two games, and shot 1-13 from three against the Thunder on the year.
An intriguing, though not necessarily consequential, matchup will be going down at the center spot tonight. Steven Adams will get his second career start, going against arguably the greatest Australian ever to play basketball in Andrew Bogut. (Sorry, Andrew Gaze!) The sporting rivalry between Adams' native New Zealand and Australia is fierce, so you'd better believe that a ton of people down under will be checking into the game as they get off of work. I wouldn't predict anything too spectacular here, but I think the winner of this battle will be who's able to grab the most offensive boards for his team.
The Thunder are still sorting out their bench issues, as their lone backup center is Hasheem Thabeet. Thabeet was less than impressive against the Clippers last night, showing little defensive awareness. It's unclear whether he'll get time tonight, especially with Ibaka slated to play the full game and Collison hopefully not headed towards foul trouble. The battle for minutes at the guard positions also rages on, as Derek Fisher and Perry Jones seem to be changing places as the team's 10th man. Lamb seems to be comfortable in his minutes, but he's been quiet so far. How long until he has a break out game? And concerning Jackson, it's still unclear as to whether he can fit in comfortably as a shooting guard next to Fisher or Westbrook. Questions abound, but the answers will only become more clear as the matchup unfolds tonight.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Golden State Warriors 97.
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