Tip-Off: 7:30 PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
F Kevin Durant returns to Oklahoma City for the first time since going to Golden State over the summer, and Thunder fans will anxiously await any opportunity to boo, hiss, and scream at him for any mistake that he makes. In his first season with the Warriors, Durant is averaging 25.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. He is shooting a career-high 53.5% from the field, and he is averaging a career-low 2.3 turnovers per game, but he’s shooting his worst 3-point percentage in the last 6 seasons at 37.3%. Because of the Warriors’ ability to spread the floor, Durant is able to do a lot more with his offensive game without the ball in his hands. Andre Roberson needs to play physical defense and get in Durant’s head because KD will most definitely be looking to make a statement in his former team’s home arena.
Keys to the Game
- Protect the Perimeter: Golden State is known for its ability to knock down threes, and Oklahoma City will have very little chance to win this game if they cannot effectively defend the arc. The Warriors have lost all 8 of their games when they’ve shot 34.1% or worse from three, and that is a mark the Thunder would be proud to hold this team to. In the last meeting on January 18th, Oklahoma City was tied with Golden State at the half as the Thunder held the Warriors to 3/6 (50%) from three. While the percentage was solid for Golden State, Oklahoma City did a fantastic job of running the Warriors off the three-point line. In the second half, however, the Thunder allowed the Warriors to make 5/7 (71.4%) from beyond the arc in the third, which was when Golden State ran away with the game. It takes total team defense to keep the Warriors from taking over around the perimeter, and that is absolutely necessary to get a win at home tonight.
- Take Over the Interior: Oklahoma City thrives at scoring down low, but Golden State also does a pretty good job. The Thunder are currently 2nd in the NBA averaging 49.5 points in the paint, while the Warriors are 4th averaging 46.9. Steven Adams sat out in the last game against the Warriors due to a concussion, but Enes Kanter dominated with 22 points and 9 rebounds. Now, Kanter is out with a broken forearm, but Adams is back, plus Warriors Center Zaza Pachulia is out. Steven Adams will be a major key for the Thunder being effective in the paint, and without Pachulia, the Warriors have very little help down low.
- Control Emotions: Undoubtedly, this will be one of the most emotional games in the history of the Thunder organization. All season long, critics from across the country and fans from other teams have told Thunder fans how to feel concerning Kevin Durant’s exit. The fact of the matter is that Durant did not just leave the Thunder, he left a city that adored him. While Thunder fans will never forget the great things that he did for the city, like donating money to a number of different causes, fans will also never forget the childish manner in which he ducked out of town to take an easier road to winning. It has not been easy, but Oklahoma City has fared well without Durant considering the situation. Without a doubt, the most passionate player in the game is Russell Westbrook, and he will need to keep the team in control of their emotions tonight and not let bad blood have a negative effect on the outcome of the game.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.