The Thunder, four games into the season and still undefeated, take on the NBA’s new super team, the Warriors. The game is in Oakland, meaning that Westbrook’s Thunder will have to deal with KD’s new home. So we’ll have to wait a bit until we can hear OKC’s boos rain down on KD.
The Warriors are 3-1 at the moment, but they are far short of the league domination that everyone expects. The Warriors struggled shooting in their opener, dropping it to the veteran Spurs. Then, the Warriors needed a fourth quarter run to push themselves past the lowly New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns. The Warriors most recent win against Portland was impressive, but Golden State will always be able to run.
At this point, it’s clear that it will take time for this super-team to gel. The NBA’s last artificially assembled superteam, the Miami Heat of 2010-2011, got out to a mediocre 5-4 start. So it’s very possible that it will just take time for the Warriors rhythm to develop. On paper, there’s no reason to think that the Warriors won’t be able to shoot every other team out of the building with historically high point totals. Yet, through three games, KD, Thompson, Draymond, and Iguodala are all shooting 31% or worse from three. And the Warriors average 15 turnovers a game.
The Thunder are coming off of a watershed win against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers looked to be an early contender, likely to rack up a lot of early season wins with their stable roster and coaching staff. But OKC pulled out the win. The Thunder held strong in the fourth quarter, using rock solid defense and Westbrook’s offensive firepower. Westbrook scored or assisted on 14 of the Thunder’s final 15 points. I will say that the defense was mostly Westbrook as well. During the final 5 minutes, Westbrook got 2 steals, forced Chris Paul into 2 turnovers, and forced Paul into two missed shots. But I can’t discount the tremendous defense of Steven Adams at center and Domatas Sabonis at power forward. Quietly, they both played a titanic role in that win. Even Kanter’s rebounding off the bench was huge.
The game saw the first appearance of new acquisition Jerami Grant, as well as cameos from Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne. This proves Donovan is still willing to experiment with his lineups, and favors going big. Grant hooked up with Westbrook for an alley-oop, and looked right at home on OKC. I’m glad Grant will add to our athleticism, mid-range shooting, and post defense. Mostly, I’m psyched we can use Grant on Durant, because Grant is one SF who can slow KD down. In two contests, Durant has averaged 18 points on 51% shooting against Grant.
What about tonight?
I’ve always known KD to take a few bad shots, on average, per game. Given how emotional KD’s statements have been recently, I wouldn’t be surprised if Westbrook goaded KD into some selfish play. Westbrook has been playing with serious flare and gusto this season, embracing his new role as leader. KD’s silent, laid back style will certainly clash.
The key for the Thunder to win the game will be turnovers. If OKC can play their physical style of game and keep Golden State from making easy passes, that could lead to some easy Thunder points. Otherwise, it will be all about protecting the basket. This will likely leave lots of long twos open, but the Warriors don’t have the mid-range options they had in the past (Speights, Barnes). Except, of course, for KD.
KD’s shoe is probably going to fall off. Just had to get that out there.
The Warriors will need to work on spreading the floor, shooting threes, keeping the pace up, and keeping things efficient. Sloppy play will lead to broken play opportunities for the Thunder, while a organized game would likely favor Golden State. Especially considering that the Thunder should have the advantage on the boards.
After last night, I believe that Westbrook can do anything.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 122, Golden State Warriors 120.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Drop a comment and let us know!
Injuries: Cameron Payne (Out), Patrick McCaw (Out), Damian Jones (Out)
TV: TNT Only (Free Fox Sports OK!)
Place: ORACLE Arena, Oakland, California
Time: 9:30 PM Central Daylight Time