Finally Time For Thunder-Warriors Showdown
By Randy Renner
Dang it seems like we’ve been waiting ALL season for the Thunder to take on the Warriors, oh wait, we HAVE been waiting all season.
Whether through some sort of quirk or the intentional deviousness of the schedule makers more than half the NBA’s regular season has gone by and the Thunder and Warriors have yet to play a single game against each other.
That changes tonight inside raucous Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Finally we’ll all get to see just how well, or not, these two teams matchup. Early in the season when the Warriors started 13-0 and the Thunder stumbled to a 7-6 record, most Thunder fans were probably pretty happy OKC wouldn’t have to play Golden State till much later.
Now that the Thunder and the Warriors have almost identical records over their last 32 games (28-4 for GSW, 27-5 for OKC) fans of both teams are eager to see just how they stack up.
It will be a mini All-Star Game too with superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder going up against superstar and reigning MVP Steph Curry of the Warriors not to mention Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
These teams haven't played since Wednesday, when Curry, Westbrook and Durant showcased their star power.
Curry matched a career high with 11 3-pointers and scored 51 in Wednesday's 134-121 victory at Washington, one day before he and the Warriors met with President Obama to celebrate their NBA Championship from last season.
Durant's 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left was the winner in a 117-114 thriller over the Orlando Magic. He had 37 points that night while Westbrook posted his third straight triple-double and 27th of his career with 24 points, a career-high 19 rebounds and 14 assists.
It was the 36th straight game KD has scored at least 20 points and it’s the second time in his career he’s had such a streak. In case you’re wondering only one other player in NBA history has multiple steaks of scoring 20+ in at least 35 straight games, some guy named Jordan. Michael Jordan.
Durant and Westbrook together are the highest scoring duo in the NBA this season averaging a combined 51.4 points a game and guess who’s right behind? Yep that would be Curry and Thompson at 51.3 points.
Curry leads the NBA with 29.8 points per game with Durant third at 27.4. The Oklahoma City leading scorer has felt perhaps slightly slighted with all the attention showered on Golden State and San Antonio this season, although he insists his focus is on his own ballclub, which is in third place in the Western Conference.
"We've still got to play the games at the end of the day," Durant said. "It's not like they're canceling our games, they're not talking about us in the media, we've still got to play our games."
These teams go into the weekend ranking as the two best in points per 100 possessions, with Golden State at 113.2 and Oklahoma City at 110.0. The difference is while the Warriors average a league-best 20.7 assists per 100 possessions, the Thunder are at 16.5 due to the isolation talents of Durant and Westbrook.
The Warriors are scoring 123.0 points during their eight-game win streak. Klay Thompson has averaged 33.8 points and 60.2 percent shooting in his last four.
The Thunder are also red hot as winners of 12 of 13. They're averaging 120.2 points in a five-game win streak.
The Warriors love to go small and sometimes super small with the 6-7 Green playing the center spot. The Thunder can counter with extremely athletic big men in Steven Adams and Enes Kanter and don’t forget Serge Ibaka provides head coach Billy Donovan with the flexibility to be able to switch out on smaller, athletic wings.
“Serge has been a guy who gives us a lot of flexibility because if we do want to switch, we can do that,” Donovan said. “If we want him to show out hard on a ball screen and get back to his own man, he can do that. Serge has that flexibility. He can also play inside in the post.”
And on offense those Thunder bigs can cause huge problems for GSW’s defense.
“We have to just try to find ways to get them the ball and use it to our advantage when they’re in,” Westbrook said.
This game, like all games, will probably come down to the little things. Playing smart, playing focused, don’t make silly mistakes.
“We have to be smart,” Durant said. “You can be physical and use your athleticism all you want, but if you’re not smart and don’t think the game, no matter who you play against you can lose.”
“It comes down to controlling the basketball and not turning it over a lot,” Durant continued. “It’ll be a battle of who can take care off the ball and who can capitalize off of turnovers.”
Tipoff is set for 8:10 tonight and you can see it on either ESPN or Fox Sports Oklahoma.