Tip-Off: 7 PM CDT
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
G Steph Curry has had a good season despite playing alongside multiple all-stars, but he has struggled at times in the 9 games that he has played since Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury. In those games, he’s averaging 26.0 points per game, just a tick over his season average, but during that span he’s shooting 43.8% from the field, including 33.3% from three, both below his season averages. As a result, the Warriors are 5-4 in that span, plus they lost another game that Curry sat out for rest, making them 5-5 since Durant’s injury. Curry has put together a couple of solid games lately, though, so keeping him from getting hot will be paramount to stopping the Warriors.
Keys to the Game
- Perimeter Protection: Beating the Warriors essentially comes down to keeping them off the three-point line. All 14 of Golden State’s losses have come when they have been held to 34.1% or worse shooting from deep, whereas they have only won 9 games when they shot that poorly. In the three meetings between the Thunder and the Warriors so far, Golden State has knocked down at least 41.9% of their threes. With the absence of Kevin Durant, the Warriors will be missing one of their top shooters, so perhaps the Thunder will fare better at running Golden State’s shooters off the perimeter.
- Down Low Domination: Oklahoma City excels in the paint, and when they are able to dominate their opponent down low, they typically come away with a win. Golden State is also really good down low, and they have made their presence known against the Thunder in their three matchups so far. For the season, Oklahoma City averages 49.4 points in the paint (1st in the NBA) and 46.2 rebounds (2nd in the NBA), but the Thunder allows opponents to score 47.8 points in the paint, which is 28th in the league. Meanwhile, Golden State averages 47.0 points in the paint (5th in the NBA) and 44.6 rebounds per game (7th in the NBA), but they also allow opponents to score a lot of points in the paint at 44.9 per game, which is 21st in the league. In the season series between the Thunder and the Warriors, Golden State dominated Oklahoma City in the first two games in both points in the paint and rebounding, while the Thunder barely edged out the Warriors in both categories in the third game, but not by enough. Winning the battle in the paint will be key to opening up shots elsewhere, so the Thunder need to not only find ways to score down low, but they need to protect the interior on the defensive end as well.
- Control Transition: The Thunder has been solid in fast break situations both offensively and defensively all season long ranking 3rd in fast break points with 17.1 per game and 5th in opponent fast break points with 11.1. The Warriors lead the league in fast break points per game with 22.7 per game, but they allow 13.7 per game, which is 19th in the NBA. In the last two matchups between the Thunder and the Warriors, Golden State has absolutely destroyed Oklahoma City in transition scoring by a total of 50-19. The Thunder cannot afford to give up any easy points, so stopping the Warriors in the fast break should be a priority defensively. On the other side of the ball, Russell Westbrook is always looking to push the tempo, so that will undoubtedly remain the game plan for tonight.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.