Tip-Off: 9:30 P.M. CT
Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
The OKC Thunder at the start of this season were still trying to figure out their identity. They could not seem to find a solid enough rhythm to produce any kind of winning streak out of the gate. But somehow, someway, they found a way to beat the poster child team of the NBA in the Golden State Warriors, 108-91. Yes the Thunder did win at home (19-9 this season), but they beat the elite of elite teams who does own the best road record in the NBA this season at 22-6. Tonight, the Thunder riding a four game losing skid, head out to the OracleArena to try and top Golden State for the second time this year. Here are the four keys in order to make that happen:
4) A Look at the Matchup Battles
As it will be the key to any game that I cover, winning the starting five matchup battle will be key. Since the Andre Roberson season-ending injury, coach Donovan has started rookie Terrance Ferguson in his place. The 19 year old has taken a total of four shots over his past five games. It will be interesting to see if Donovan starts him once again tonight. Either way, with the abscence of Roberson, besides Paul George OKC will not have another good perimeter defender to guard Klay Thompson at the 2 spot.
George will be doing his best to guard Golden State’s best all-around offensive superstar in Kevin Durant. Although I love George on both ends of the floor, his defense hasn’t been there as much of late and Durant has recorded 30 points or more in back-to-back games. Draymond Green will unfortunately have his way with Carmelo Anthony at the 4 spot, while Steven Adams will do the same to Zaza Pachullia down low. The key matchup to watch is Westbrook vs Curry. Arguably the two best point guards in the game today, Curry has been prone to not being able to shutdown Westbrook in the past. It was evident as Westbrook scored 17 of his 34 points on Curry when he was guarding him. All around? We know what Golden State is capable of, but I wouldn’t count out OKC until the final buzzer sounds.
3) Golden State’s Dominance at Home
It is no secret that the Oracle Arena out in Oakland has become a house of horrors for opposing teams these past couple of seasons. The same goes for teams this year as well. Golden State has averaged the most PPG at home in the NBA this season (117.0 PPG), and also owns the 5th best home record in the Western Conference at 19-6. "The Oracle" also owns one of if not the most sensational fan bases in the NBA. Night in and night out, fans in the Bay Area pay serious money to go out and see their super-team play basketball. And on top of all that, OKC has not won a road game since January 27th. With the state of the Thunder almost in a free fall a win out in Oakland tonight could be a huge momentum booster moving forward.
2) Defend the Warriors at the 3-Point Line
Even in the midst of their 8 game winning streak, which now seems like such a long time ago, the Thunder still struggled with contaning the 3 pointer. Over their last 10 games, the Thunder have allowed 12.3 converted 3’s per game. If that trend continues, it will prove to be deadly as the Warriors average the most 3 pointers attempted per game. Durrant, Thompson, and Curry all average at least 41% or higher on 3’s attempted this season. If the trend of the Warriors continue there is no man, woman, or child alive that can stop the onslaught known as the Warriors offense.
1) Russell Westbrook vs Kevin Durant, part two
In their last matchup, Russ led OKC with 34 PTS, 8 ASTS, and 9 REBS in a 108-91 win over Golden State. Usually that is enough to grab any headline. Unless when it comes down to talking about the most soap opera like drama when it comes down to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. When Durant left OKC to join Golden State after being eliminated by GS in the 2015 Western Conference finals, personal matters turned into on the court issues. It may have shined it’s brightest in Westbrook/Durant’s last matchup. They were both issued techincal fouls for exchanging obscene words to one another as it quickly became a national headliner over night. We’ve waited a little over two months now for a rematch. Russ and the Thunder won round one, who will claim round two tonight?
Who do you think will win tonight?
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