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Warriors challenge Thunder, Bogut's absence key

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Mo Speights and his trash talk will need to step it up if the Warriors are going to win. The Thunder have shut down the Splash Bros. before, and now have their own duo ready to go.

We all pay respect to our dear leader Russell Westbrook. May he forever sink full court shots and never defecate in a toilet.
We all pay respect to our dear leader Russell Westbrook. May he forever sink full court shots and never defecate in a toilet.
William Bennett Berry

The Thunder hold the hottest winning streak in the league at 7. The Warriors, before Tuesday night's loss to the Grizzlies, formerly held the league's hottest winning streak at 16. It goes without saying that this is one of the league's premiere matchups, and could very well be a preview of a potential late West playoff series.

But we all know the big storylines. Let's tackle the important questions instead!

How much worse are the Warriors without Andrew Bogut?

They definitely lose a lot on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Andrew Bogut is invaluable as a high post screener and ball distributor. His three assists a game are no joke. Bogut doesn't provide too much in terms of scoring from night to night, but he's still capable of creating his own shot. Ezeli is more of a garbage bucket player only. Furthermore, the Warriors lose a little bit on the defensive end. Bogut is a better one on one defender, gets more blocks, and avoids getting fouls. Ezeli might fill the lane a bit better, though.

On the bench, the situation gets even more interesting for the Warriors. Third string center Ognjen Kuzmic has seen little-to-no time. Instead, the Warriors have gone to Marreese Speights. At 6'10" and 245 pounds, Speights is slightly underheight (though not undersized) for the position. This could be a problem against the Thunder, who may run Collison and Perk in an attempt to score inside.

Having no backup center has been a problem for the Warriors before. In a 128-122 win against the Pelicans, the Warriors allowed backup New Orleans Center Jeff Withey to score a season high 10 points. Meanwhile, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were both able to take advantage of the Warriors' small lineup in Golden State's Tuesday matchup with Memphis.

But the disadvantages of only playing one center don't stop there. On the season, the Warriors are allowing an average of 42.1 points in the paint. But when you look at the past four games that the Warriors have played without Bogut (three of which have been wins), they've given up 51.5 points in the paint.

In case you haven't gotten the message yet, the Thunder need to ATTACK THE RIM!

What do we take from the Telfair-era loss?

Yes, that era is now officially known as the Telfair era. It's effective shorthand, and I don't know what else to call it. But the Thunder really, really need to go back over the tape of their last bout with the Dubs. The game was a loss, but Oklahoma City basically shut down Klay Thompson and Steph Curry in the second half. I wrote an article about it at the time, but here's the Cliff's notes anyway:

  1. When Steph Curry uses a high screen, switch
  2. Play Klay Thompson as tightly as possible
  3. Never Switch on Klay Thompson
  4. Don't worry too much about trapping
  5. Keep your rotations fresh
I'm also going to add a couple of additions to the list. 6. Start hounding Steph Curry as he hits half-court. This will force the Warriors to set screens from further out. (H/T: Coach Nick in his recent Conley-Curry matchup breakdown.)  7. Make sure you don't ever let Morrow guard either of these guys. It's a disaster waiting to happen.

Aside from learning how to guard Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, the Thunder were able to get some serious production from unlikely places on that night. Our recapper Kevin Nesgoda noted that Nick Collison saved something like 5 separate plays.  Kevin also praised some clutch fourth quarter shooting from Morrow.

On the other side of the coin, Golden State of Mind's recap (by Sam Sorkin) was all about the emergence of Marreese Speights. Speights was able to really get it going from mid-range, taking advantage of the Thunder's overbearing defense on Golden State's stars and OKC's slow centers. Even more interesting was Speights' trash talk during the first encounter between these two teams. From an SF Gate article by Rusty Simmons:

Speights spent much of the game talking trash to the Thunder’s bench — all the while, knocking down 11-of-18 shots for a season-high 28 points. Apparently, most of Speights’ venom was directed at Oklahoma City backup center Kendrick Perkins, who had four points on 2-of-4 shooting.

"It’s just that Perk always has something to say," Speights said. "He thinks he’s a tough guy, but at the end of the day, his game is terrible. He always has something to say to me, every time we play against each other.

"It always gets me going, so: ‘Shout out to Perkins’ for helping me get this game."

Anything else cool we should all know?

  • The Warriors will sometimes go super-small, playing Draymond Green at center. The onus is really on Perk and Adams to produce offensively in key moments, IMO.
  • Reggie Jackson's stats over the last three games? 6.7 PPG, 37.5% FG, 2.3 REB, 1.7 AST, 1.7 TO.
  • Jeremy Lamb's stats over the last four games? 5.8 PPG, 28.1% FG, 3.0 REB, 1.3 AST, 0.3 TO.
  • Kendrick Perkins is averaging 7.5 rebounds per game over the past 8, as opposed to a season average of 6.1 RPG.
  • Aside from guaranteed possessions for the Splash Brothers, the distribution in Golden State's offense can vary widely from game to game. Pretty much everyone on the active roster not named Ezeli is capable of scoring 20 on a good night.
  • The Thunder face the Lakers tomorrow night, and will keep minutes low if at all possible.
  • I think the Thunder will be able to run away with this one, simply because we've seen their defense shut down Golden State's scorers before. Bogut would definitely even things out, but the Warriors just lose too much when he's not on the floor.
  • Still, the Warriors could win this one if they got hot from three and forced enough mistakes. Furthermore, the Thunder's recent lack of turnover has really been an underrated key to their success.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 116, Golden State Warriors 109. (OT)

What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!

2014-15 NBA Season Game 26
(Won 7)

(Lost 1)
December 18th, 2014
ORACLE Arena, Oakland, California
9:30 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Turner Network Television Only
Injury Report: David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Mitch McGary (Out)
This Year's Matchups: Nov 23 (W 91-86)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Stephen Curry
Andre Roberson SG Klay Thompson
Kevin Durant SF Harrison Barnes
Serge Ibaka PF Draymond Green
Steven Adams C Festus Ezeli