54-5 (25-0 HOME)
42-19 (18-11 ROAD)
March 3, 2016
|Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
|TNT | KNBR 680 AM|
|Blog Buddy: Welcome to Loud City|
|Stephen Curry||G||Russell Westbrook
|Klay Thompson||G||Andre Roberson
|Harrison Barnes||F||Kevin Durant
|Andrew Bogut||C||Steven Adams
Andre Iguodala - Hamstring
Stephen Curry - Ankle; Festus Ezeli - Knee
The Oklahoma City Thunder visits the Golden State Warriors desperate for a sign that they can contend with the Warriors in a potential seven game series during the playoffs.
The Dubs won three of four matchups against the Thunder last season (albeit while OKC dealt with a series of injuries) in addition to the two games this season against OKC over the past four weeks. The recent battles were close affairs with Stephen Curry's brilliance leading a path to victory each time. Kevin Durant has also played well with a total of 77 points, 26 rebounds, and 10 assists in those two games. But the Thunder couldn't get the job done either time, which is what makes this Thursday night matchup a critical one for OKC. The Thunder have one last chance to prove themselves against the unstoppable (baby) force, while the Warriors have an opportunity to squash the Thunder's spirit.
Should the Warriors rest Curry again?
As a one-time student of the great Greg Popovich, Coach Steve Kerr may have a "Pop-lovian response" and decide to rest Curry, Andre Iguodala, and anyone else who might be hurting tonight. It'd be a classic Popovich maneuver in that (a) the game will be televised nationally, (b) it would upset the league office because of said national broadcast, (c) it would upset the league office even more because of the hype that would otherwise come with Curry's presence on the court after the end of the last game versus the Thunder, and (d) it would ensure that OKC couldn't exorcise the demons haunting them after blowing the game last Saturday. A victory over a Curry-less team wouldn't build an ounce of confidence that the Thunder could win four of seven games in May. Alternatively, if they can't beat the Warriors without Curry, their souls would be absolutely crushed. In that sense, resting Curry could be a fun way to mess with Durant's head.
But the decision to rest players in this game isn't that simple. Somehow Golden State is only 3.5 games ahead of San Antonio in the standings, so Kerr has to be mindful about the importance of every game. Home court advantage is kind of a big deal when you're undefeated at home. And the team takes great pride in defending its home court. That said, risking greater injury to Curry and Iguodala may not be worth a few wins in the short-term, or even home court advantage. And the dream of notching 73 wins in a season is a fun one, but Kerr's eyes are on the championship prize and he'll rest players as needed. He said this week that he "won't lose any sleep" if the Warriors' home win streak comes to an end.
Warriors fans should still fear the Thunder
The team from Oklahoma still has the raw materials to push Golden State to the limit -- and beyond.
Curry is likely to play
The good news is that it sounds like Curry is intending to play tonight. He went through a full practice on Wednesday and should be good to go. Curry's a gamer and a champion - he's going to want to be out on that court no matter what. It's unclear whether Iggy will be in the lineup, though. Hamstring injuries are generally long-lasting, so Kerr may choose to be careful with Iguodala. If Iggy is out, Brandon Rush and Ian Clark will get some extra run.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are likely to be angry
Yes, Durant and especially Westbrook always play angry, but you'd have to think that tonight they'll have an extra edge.
And it's not just about what happened last night against the L.A. Clippers.
At one point, OKC had a 99% win probability against the Clippers. Then the collapse.... pic.twitter.com/tm7XI3zO7L— Positive Residual (@presidual) March 3, 2016
They've repeatedly tried to play off losses as though they weren't heart-breaking, but it comes across as insincere.
Russell Westbrook on the Warriors: "They’re a pretty good team, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. We’ll be ready for next time."— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 7, 2016
Westbrook on Curry: "He made some tough shots." pic.twitter.com/xQ2prnHvnd— Royce Young (@royceyoung) February 28, 2016
That's one way to put it, Mr. Westbrook. Or you could say that Curry made some superhuman shots in willing his team to victory. I have a feeling that Durant and Westbrook are looking into an option like this before the playoffs:
after their loss to the Warriors last week, Westbrook and Durant traveled back in time to kill @StephenCurry30...... pic.twitter.com/FbrkZ2AZM9— MPA Walker (@fathe3rd) March 2, 2016
It's clear that Durant and Westbrook are tired of hearing about how great the Warriors are. The only way to deal with it is to step it up on the court and finally get a win. Or Durant could always join the Warriors... But until Oklahoma City manages to get a win against Golden State, Durant's dinners with wine will be followed by a lot of this overnight:
I'm dying...pic.twitter.com/n2v9wo7U20— sneaker.st (@SneakerSt) February 28, 2016