Warriors (52-5, 28-5 road) vs. Thunder (41-17, 25-7 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 7:30 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.9 (2nd), Warriors – 112.7 (1st)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.5 (13th), Warriors – 100.0 (5th)
The narratives are pretty clear heading into this game. The Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the hotter teams heading into the All-Star break, came out of it looking like all their momentum had been sapped from them. Losers of 3 of their last 4, the Thunder have looked pedestrian at the worst possible time in the schedule. The twelve games after the All-Star break were thought to be the test that the rest of the season was measured against. So far, the Thunder are 1-3. It’s been a while since I’ve been in school, but if you missed three of the four questions a teacher gave you on an assignment, I would bet the house that would be a failing grade.
While I can’t pinpoint the exact thing that is dragging the Thunder down, there are two obvious culprits to their downfall. Number one, the lack of a consistent fourth and fifth option is killing the Thunder. While Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook usually handle the yeoman’s load, it’s usually one of Serge Ibaka, Dion Waiters, or Enes Kanter that handles the third load. But once that third player steps up, no one else steps up to take that next option.
Number two is the defense. Goodness gracious, it’s been atrocious. And it has little to do with usual culprit Enes Kanter. Wing players have been having a buffet getting into the paint at will in the last handful of games. Once a player gets into the lane, the Thunder have a tough time recovering from there, either giving up an easy lay-up or an uncontested three. The return of Andre Roberson was thought to be the remedy for this, but after a one game spell against Dallas, the ills of the defense returned in the next night against New Orleans. If the Thunder are to get to elite status, these two things needs to be fixed, and fast.
This is the 2nd of 3 meetings between the Thunder and Warriors. Golden State won the first meeting, 116-108, in a game that saw the Thunder fall behind by 22 in the first half, but crawl all the way back to tie the game with 3 minutes left, before running out of gas at the end of the game.
Golden State is good, y’all.
3 Big Things1. Perimeter defense
Last game, the Thunder may have gotten lucky as both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shot just 2-15 from deep that night. While some of it was good perimeter defense, most of it was just missed shots. That game, the Thunder focused most of their attention on the perimeter and the results were the Warriors shooting just 7-26 from deep. The Thunder will have to continue focusing on the perimeter and hoping that the Warriors get bothered enough to, once again, missed most of their 3-pointers.2. The Others
Enes Kanter, the player many thought would be targeted on defense and made almost unplayable against the Warriors, was actually the catalyst that brought the team back from its deficit in the third and fourth quarter. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan placed Kanter on a non-shooter on defense and that downplayed the affect of any pick-n-roll scheme they tried against the Thunder. The only problem was that Kanter was the only bench player to score more than 3 points.
The Thunder centers were extremely effective against the Warriors, but Serge Ibaka, Dion Waiters, and Cameron Payne were all basically just bodies on the court. That can’t happen against the Warriors or Spurs. Durant and Westbrook cannot do it all against the elite teams. Multiple others need to step up for the Thunder to be effective. The question has always been, “Who will it be this night?”3. Small Ball
The Thunder have the personnel to keep up with the Warriors’ “death line-up”. While we hardly saw that in play last game, I think we may see a bit more of that this game.
Klay Thompson – For some reason, Thompson always seems to have good games against Roberson. While all the attention will likely be focused on Curry, Thompson has the potential to go off from deep.
A Single Thought from a Demented Mind
Today, my daughter had a basketball tournament, and I tweeted this out. What think you guys?