Start time - 7:30 p.m (CT)
Broadcaster - Bally Sports Oklahoma
The Thunder come into this game on the back of the team’s first win of the season. The game against the Lakers seemed to be dead and buried after the first quarter but the Thunder showed grit as they fought their way back into contest.
It was an amazing game to watch and a brilliant way to finally kick the season off. There have been a few moral victories over the last week or so but it was really nice to get a proper win on the board.
I enjoyed the way that the Thunder won the game. While all of the starting five had strong games, it was a team performance. The ball moved freely and it was the ball movement that created open shots down the stretch.
Coach Mark’s game plan was also brutally effective. Oklahoma City focused on isolating Malik Monk or Carmelo Anthony on the strong-side of the floor. Monk and Anthony are turnstiles on defense and the Thunder exploited those weaknesses.
The Lakers’ best defensive player, Anthony Davis, could not protect the rim in the second half because he was drawn out to the perimeter guarding Darius Bazley. Coach Daigneault drew up an effective game plan and the Thunder executed well.
Saturday’s game will be a rematch against the Golden State Warriors in their new home, Chase Center. Golden State relocated to San Francisco and finally have a renaissance to enliven their supporters. Stephen Curry has a real opportunity to win a title for the first time since 2018 and it would be quite a legacy play.
For the Warriors to win a championship after such a prolonged gap, the comparisons to Jordan’s Bulls or the 2014 San Antonio Spurs would be particularly apt. Curry is in the twilight of his prime and may not get such a chance to claim the ultimate prize again. That motivation is clear in how the Warriors have played this year.
Golden State have come out firing and have displayed new found strength in numbers. Jordan Poole has emerged as a microwave scorer who can sustain a previously insipid bench unit. Nemanja Bjelica brings a sweet shooting stroke to the center spot and intelligent interior defense.
The challenge of winning against Golden State in their arena is difficult for the Thunder. Oklahoma City must strike a balance between guarding Curry effectively and allowing Draymond Green to wreak havoc. It is all well and good sending doubles at Steph but that creates the sort of 4v3 situations that Draymond thrives on.
Luguentz Dort will need to be at his sharpest to slow down Steph. Dort’s strength and physicality will be useful in wearing Curry down but it is his agility that is most required. Dort needs to keep Curry in front of him at all times to stop him from blowing the Thunder away from deep.
The Golden State Warriors are a name from the Thunder’s halcyon days; the days when Westbrook and Durant drove fear into the heart of every single team in the league. Today, both teams stand at the opposite ends of the spectrum but all of that fades to black when the teams step onto the court.
Oklahoma City have the skill and temperament to push Golden State all the way. The key for the Thunder is ensuring that the level of play is consistent for all four quarters. If that happens, we might see another upset on our hands.