For Oklahoma City Thunder nation, tonight was never meant to be. Rather, within the hearts of OKC’s faithful, expectations of a greater destiny for this model small-market franchise were to remain.
After all, as recently as last spring, Oklahoma City resided upon the brink of a glory all its own. The apex? United stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant collectively sneering in the face of seemingly insourmountable odds to place Golden State on the brink.
However, in that dizzying moment, fate conspired to author a new course. This winding pathway entailed a bitter re-write for all involved; and of course, has culminated with this evening’s acrimonious return of a formerly revered son.
The city that raised Kevin Durant has waited since July 4 to unleash eight years of emotion toward its former MVP. Though following tonight, no sentiment will remain unconveyed. In times like these, it is easy to lose sight of the actual contest due to the moment surrounding it.
Nevertheless, formalities demand a mention of the competitive difficulty the 45-8 Golden State Warriors present. The rebuilt Thunder is 0-2 during fruitless attempts to exact revenge against its heated-rival this season.
Ironically, in these lopsided affairs, Kevin Durant has singed his former club to the tune of 39.5 ppg, 28-of-40 FGM, and 12-18 3PM. Albeit, these performances came within Durant’s newly established confines of Oracle Arena. Suffice it to state, the mild-mannered scoring champ has never experienced the myriad disapproval he will face from his former devotees tonight.
Undoubtedly, with each touch of the ball, K.D. will feel the void he created in OKC on July 4, 2016. This alone should set the stage for a potentially uncertain encounter.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (31-23 #7 West) vs. Golden State Warriors (45-8 #1 West)
- Time: 8:30 PM ET
- Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- TV: ABC
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY
- Give Durant no quarter. (OKC players should follow the crowd and make this contest a forgettable experience for K.D.)
- Westbrook, keep your emotions in check. (Russ is known to become a bit excitable. Tonight, the Thunder’s sole-remaining superstar will need a steely hand)
- Check the three-point line. (Easier said than done vs. GSW. However, the Thunder must make every effort to do so)
- Battle hard underneath. (The paint is one area in which OKC may be able to exploit high-octane Golden State)
- Battle hard for 48 minutes. (OKC cannot afford to lose focus for one second against even a rattled Warrior club)
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder enter this season’s most anticipated contest sporting a victory over defending champion Cleveland and wins in three-of-four outings.
Further in OKC’s favor is the fact that Golden State is competing on the tail end of a back-to-back, after grinding a win vs. Memphis.
But for Oklahoma City to prevail, a combination of auspicious factors must align. First, the Thunder will need efficient performances from each of its rotation players. And perhaps more importantly, Golden State must suffer a big-stage collapse akin to its fateful game-seven meltdown in last summer’s NBA Finals.
We will also learn if Durant’s new surroundings have tempered his formerly shaky confidence in the clutch.
Golden State Warriors
As has been the case since the beginning of 2014, Golden State is enjoying total dominance over the association. During that span, Steve Kerr’s revolutionary crew has amassed a staggering 185-32 record.
Though, while the Warriors have perhaps slipped a bit since last season’s redefining 73-9 regular-season jaunt, Golden State is still clearly the world’s premiere sporting franchise.
For that reason, the hard-numbers attest this is the Warriors’ game to lose.
Simply, to find a redemptive outcome tonight, Oklahoma City must hope unbridled emotions override imposing streaks and regular-campaign hegemony.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS/INJURY REPORTS
The Oklahoma City Thunder list Enes Kanter (Forearm) as out. The Golden State Warriors list Zaza Pachulia (Shoulder) as out. David West (Thumb) is listed as questionable.
Oklahoma City Thunder
- Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
- Small Forward: Andre Roberson
- Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis
- Center: Steven Adams
Golden State Warriors
- Point Guard: Stephen Curry
- Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson
- Small Forward: Kevin Durant
- Power Forward: Draymond Green
- Center: JaVale McGee
Oklahoma City Thunder +7
Golden State still enjoys considerable Vegas backing though faced with debilitating odds such as playing with a short bench on the second night of a back-to-back in a raucously hostile environment.
Versus Memphis, minus interior-muscle Pachulia and West, Draymond Green compiled a rare 12 rebound, ten assist, ten steal triple-double. Andre Iguodala also exploded for 22 points to bolster the offensive force of Durant, Thompson, and Curry.
Overall, Golden State leads the NBA in OffRtg (114.1) and wins (45). The Warriors rank second in DefRtg (101.3). The Warriors’ NetRtg (12.8) is by far the league’s best.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City (104) ranks #21 in OffRtg and seventh (104.4) in DefRtg. The Thunder’s -0.4 NetRtg is 14th in the association.
Tonight’s key matchup pits Kevin Durant vs. the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd. Unfortunately, even with a sub-par performance from Durant, the Thunder still must contend with an imposing triad of Curry, Thompson, and Green.
Even so, at 8:30 PM ET, the collective eyes of the sporting world will be attentively tuned to witness this implausible drama finally unfold.
(Loud Citizens, we love you all, and we ask that, if you happen to venture over to Golden State of Mind to engage in some witty repartee with Warriors fans there, to do so respectfully, as an invited guest. While as fans we may like to enjoy the on-court rivalry, in real world terms, the GSOM site managers are fantastic and partners with us at WTLC. Let’s enjoy a great sports moment tonight together. - Sherman)