In case you didn't have enough weather-related puns for your OKC basketball enjoyment here's another one. It is my pleasure to introduce a new weekly feature here at Welcome to Loud City, the "5 Day Forecast."
The point of the 5DF is to give the fans insights and previews into the Thunder's upcoming schedule. 5DF will provide a weekly breakdown of opponents and key matchups for OKC. Each game will be given a forecast, which will be a representation for how I believe the game will go. The worse the forecast, the less the chance I believe the Thunder have to win that game.
Of course, there will be exceptions as some times a pun or turn of phrase will be just too cheesy for me to pass up (Example: Thunderstorms for Dallas because of the J.J. Barea vs Russell Westbrook beef).
This upcoming week the Thunder have four games, two against the creme de la creme of the league, one against a potential playoff opponent, and one against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Check below to see what type of weather Oklahoma City is in store for this week.
2/21 vs Cleveland
FORECAST: Potential Downpours, 60% chance of showers
In their second game back from All-Star break, the Thunder get their second shot at the elite team in the East. However, when these teams first met, the Cavaliers weren't at full strength as Kyrie Irving, Mo Williams and Iman Shumpert all missed the game due to injuries.
Without one of their "Big Three" and two key rotational players, Cleveland was still able to hand OKC a 104-100 defeat due to a near triple-double for LeBron James (33p-11r-9a) and five other Cavs notching double digits.
For their part, the Thunder had their own big three going as KD, Russ and Serge all scored 20+ points, yet that was really all the scoring OKC got.
With Irving back and Tyronn Lue actually trying to use Kevin Love correctly, this is a totally different team than the one OKC squared off against in December.
The shaky defense heading into the All-Star break doesn't bode well, and without Andre Roberson (who still isn't participating in any contact drills), the Thunder don't have their best perimeter defender to use against Irving or James.
Durant and Westbrook will have to show they are capable of taking their defensive effort and play to another level if OKC is to avoid getting into a shootout.
This game being at The Peake should help as well as those outside of the Ibaka/KD/Russ trio fare better at home than on the road.
Donovan and company need to make sure the team brings their A-game or there is the potential for jumpers to be rained down all night by both sides.
On The Doppler Radar: Cam Payne VS Matthew Dellavedova
The most hated man outside of Cleveland is a pest to all the other 29 teams in the league, but his energy and effort has the ability to turn the tide of any game he's in. Cam Payne has shown that he has the talent to be a contributing piece to a title contending team. However, Dellavedova will bring a test to Payne's poise and maturity. Payne stayed two years at Murray State, which is considered an eon in today's world of college basketball, so at 21 years old he isn't the baby that most rookies are when they enter the NBA. If Payne is able to hold his head and out-floater Dellavedova that could be the edge OKC needs in what should be a tight game.
Prediction: Cavaliers 110, Thunder 102
2/24 at Dallas
FORECAST: Thunderstorms, Lightning Advisory
J.J. Barea is not a well-liked man in Oklahoma City. His antics and fiery play are responsible for getting Russell Westbrook ejected in an earlier matchup, and the folks in Thunder country (and Westbrook) don't forgive easily (Exhibit A: Patrick Beverly).
Yet, Russ has had two pretty tame games against the Mavericks. In the three games against Dallas, he averaged 15.67 PPG, 8.67 APG, and 6.67 RPG. I wouldn't be surprised if Westbrook has one of his better games of the year, especially if Barea makes things testy again.
As it stands, the Mavericks would be OKC's first round opponent if the playoffs began today. Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the league and having weapons like Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, and Wes Matthews makes this team troublesome.
The Thunder have won all three head-to-head meetings, which is a great sign. But, each game has been completely different than the last.
In their fist meeting, it went back and forth down to the wire as OKC pulled out a 117-114 victory. Next came the Russell/JJ game and the thunder won that 108-89 (NOTE: The Mavs rested their entire starting lineup in this game). Finally, in their last meeting OKC saw an 11-point lead and steady control of the game. However the 16 bench points and key Durant jumpers in the fourth quarter were needed to pull out a 109-106 win.
A big win, against a full Mavericks roster would be a big confidence boost for the team and fans alike if they do end up meeting Dallas in the playoffs. This will be the final meeting of the year for these two teams.
On The Doppler Radar: David Lee VS Enes Kanter
David Lee was the first player to be bought out and then signed to a playoff contender. For the Mavericks he can provide an offensive boost off the bench and will most likely be paired with Satnam Singh. For the Thunder that role has been Enes Kanter's all year. Both players are great on the boards and it will be the player that grabs the most rebounds that will have a bigger impact on the game--let's face it neither of these two have the defensive acumen to stop the other player from scoring.
Prediction: Thunder 107, Mavs 93
2/25 at New Orleans
FORECAST: Sunny, Clear Skies 80 degrees
Last season New Orleans was the team that kept the one-man-band that was Russell Westbrook out of the postseason. I'm sure that many of you are still trying to forget this shot ever happened.
What a difference a year makes!
Kevin Durant is back healthy and playing at an MVP-level. Westbrook has cemented himself as a top five player. The Thunder are on pace to win 60 games. The Pelicans are on pace to get a top five draft pick.
For all the hoopla over the change at head coach from Monty Williams to Alvin Gentry it has been injuries that once again have undone the Pelicans.
Jrue Holiday is on a minutes restriction, Eric Gordon has been in and out of the lineup, Tyreke Evans is out for the remainder of the season after another knee surgery, and Quincy Pondexter was lost for the year in July.
With the new emphasis on pace Omer Asik has been transformed into an afterthought and Ryan Anderson (39.9 FG% and 34 3FG%) is having the worst shooting season since his rookie year.
That leaves Anthony Davis, who is having another stellar year, averaging career highs in minutes (36.2) points (24.4), blocks (2.9), steals (1.5), assists (2.2), rebounds (10.2), free throw percentage (80.5%), and field goal percentage (53.5%).
At 20-33 the hope for this season has long since past the Pelicans. OKC currently is up 2-0 in the season series including the 121-95 dismantling they served up in the game prior to the All-Star break.
If the Thunder truly want to keep step with and be mentioned with teams like the Warriors and Spurs these are the type of teams they need to beat handedly and early.
On The Doppler Radar: Bryce Dejan-Jones VS Dion Waiters
Stopping Anthony Davis is the main key against the Pelicans. Then Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson are the next two players to worry about. Much further down that list is Bryce Dejan-Jones, the former 10-day acquisition has a fresh three-year contract now thanks to his solid play with most of the Pelicans' wings were sidelined with injury. Waiters has been inconsistent to say the least. With a team missing as much talent as New Orleans this is a game where Dion should be able to exploit his defender just off the fact that he has more talent on both ends of the court.
Prediction: Thunder 105, Pelicans 94
2/27 vs Golden State
FORECAST: Partially Cloudy, 40 degrees and 30% chance of precipitation
After giving the NBA world one of its best games in their first matchup in the Bay during Super Bowl Weekend, the league's two most exciting teams meet up again.
This will be the only time the Warriors come to Chesapeake Energy Arena during the regular season.
In the first matchup, it was Billy Donovan who threw the first curveball, electing to stay big when Golden State trotted out small lineups. It worked well enough that Enes Kanter's offense and rebound was able to remain on the court, but not quite well enough for OKC to get the win.
What wrinkle will Donovan have this time around? Or will it be Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, with a trick or two up his sleeve?
These regular season meetings are opportunities for both coaching staffs to find the type of strategical advantages they will be looking to then exploit if they face off in the postseason.
With 73+ wins within their reach I don't foresee Golden State resting any players and let's all collectively knock on wood that both of these teams will have good health.
While the fans and the media took the 116-108 lost as a moral victory, that wasn't the case for the players in the OKC locker room. Both Durant and Westbrook opposed the idea of moral victories.
Russell Westbrook on the Warriors: "They’re a pretty good team, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. We’ll be ready for next time."— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 7, 2016
"We not scared of either one of those teams...We gonna play our game. Nobody in this locker room is scared. We’ve got to play them. To get to where we want to get to, we got to play them. We ain’t ducking nobody."
On The Doppler Radar: LeAndro Barbosa VS Randy Foye
The reason Foye was brought into OKC was to give the Thunder more guard depth to matchup with the Warriors. On Saturday, he should get his first shot at the defending champs. Barbosa along with Shaun Livingston were giving the Thunder wings all they could handle. While Foye is too small to be the main defender for Livingston, he should be a good choice to face off against Barbosa. Whichever player has the better night could help swing the game in their team's favor.
Prediction: Thunder 111, Warriors 110