Preview 70 of 82: Thunder vs Warriors
Time: 7:30 PM CST
Game Notes: Thunder / Warriors
The Thunder (42-27) are in action tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, taking on the West-leading Golden State Warriors (46-21) in downtown Oklahoma City. Though the game features a great deal of star power on both sides, the Warriors will be without Kevin Durant (ankle) in their lone trip to OKC this season. Regardless, Paul George and Russell Westbrook will need to find an answer for a Golden State squad that still features Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and newcomer DeMarcus Cousins. The season series is knotted up 1-1 thus far, with Cousins failing to play in each of the first two match-ups as he rehabbed an achilles injury.
Tip-off is at 7:30 PM CST and will be nationally televised on ABC. The Thunder are 1.5-point home favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Kevin Durant: Out — Ankle
- Andrew Bogut: Out — Not With Team
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What to Watch For
The Obvious Bummer. While most fan bases around the league would take great pleasure in not having to face KD, it’s a bummer to see him miss this one. This was his only scheduled trip to Oklahoma City this season — and possibly his last as a member of the Warriors (barring a future playoff series) — so you hate to lose potentially the final Russ/KD head-to-head in this particular dynamic, not to mention the always-interesting crowd reception. In any case, it wasn’t meant to be and Vegas now favors the Thunder after the news of Durant’s absence. You’ll take any advantage you can get this time of year…but it still sort of stinks.
The Other Warriors. Taking the floor without a superstar and former MVP would capsize most teams, but that’s just not the case for the Warriors. Even without KD, they boast four All-Star-caliber players (and another former MVP) in Curry, Thompson, Green, and Cousins. Their 2018-19 stat lines appear as such:
- Curry: 27.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 42.9% 3P
- Thompson: 22.5 PPG, 47.3% FG, 40.4% 3P
- Cousins: 15.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 46.6% FG
- Green: 6.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.5 SPG
Even without Durant, the Warriors have all the firepower necessary to take a victory in OKC. The Thunder’s success defending Curry and Thompson will likely be the key — we’ve seen what can happen when they catch fire from beyond the arc.
Russ & PG. It should go without saying, but the Thunder need stellar performances from their superstar duo in order to beat the Warriors. Westbrook has been on a tear lately, averaging 29.2 points on 47.6 percent shooting and 37.6 percent from downtown since the All-Star break. George looks to have shaken some of the post-shoulder-soreness rust, scoring 36 points on 6-of-11 shooting from deep in Thursday’s loss to the Pacers. It doesn’t happen very often, but OKC would become a lot more difficult to beat if both superstars turned in solid offensive performances in a game that promises all the points.
Know Your Role. Outside of Russ and PG, the Thunder will need some others to step up and take care of business. Steven Adams will be crucial in his matchup with Cousins, and he can’t let Boogie’s ability to stretch the floor discombobulate the defense by drawing him out of position. Terrance Ferguson could provide a boost by knocking down some threes, as he’s converting on just 29.8 percent of his attempts since the All-Star break. You also have to hope for an effective Dennis Schroder, who comes in shooting just 6-of-20 over the last two games — scoring just seven points in each contest. He must be a threat, like he was when he scored 32 points off the bench in OKC’s 123-95 victory over the Dubs earlier this season.
Speaking of Last Time. The Thunder blew out the Warriors by 28 points on November 22 in Oakland, using 32 points from Schroder, 25 from George, 20 from Adams, 14 from Grant, and just 11 from Russell Westbrook (though it was a 11-11-13 triple-double, to be fair). OKC held Golden State to 7-of-29 (24.1%) shooting from three, forced them into 17 turnovers (while only committing 10), and won 61-42 on the glass. There’s your difficult-to-replicate blueprint for success tonight at the ‘Peake.
The Standings. The Thunder find themselves fifth in the Western Conference ahead of tonight’s game. They’re in no danger of falling any further than that with a loss, but a win would make the path to home court advantage in the playoffs that much easier.