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Preview: Warriors battle Russell “The Juggernaut” Westbrook

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GSW hopes to avoid a post-Cavs-rollick letdown against a different kind of rival

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information

Golden State Warriors (35-6) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (25-18)

How to watch?

Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Location: Oracle Arena — Oakland, CA

Time: 7:30pm PST

TV: CSN Bay Area, ESPN Radio: 95.7 THE GAME

Blog buddy: Welcome to Loud City

Team Metrics Comparison

Right on the heels of the Golden State Warriors’ thrashing of their rivals the Cleveland Cavaliers just some random team I guess, the team moves on to one of the next biggest stories in the league: the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, the first person to average a triple double since Oscar Robertson in 1961-1962 and the last person a fragile rim wants to see running toward it like a berserker maniac with a fiery orange ball of punishment.

This game couldn’t come at a better time, and I’m being sincere about that. The Warriors went into Monday night’s game with an explosive yet focused charge that managed to burn hot for the full 48, something that very few teams can do every game (and luckily something the Warriors don’t have to do without being penalized by the loss column). In other words: following Monday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ol’ cruise control flipped on.

And nobody wants to see that! We want fireworks! Which is why having the Thunder in town is so timely: they’re one of the few teams in the league that the Warriors are going to gear up for.

The rivalry-that-should-have-been after last year’s cage match of a Western Conference Finals between the Thunder and Warriors instead became a teetering sibling feud between Westbrook and the brother who left for trophy-filled pastures. Kevin Durant harbors no public animus toward Russ or the Thunder, to be clear — but KD’s also someone who quietly looks to prove himself, even when no further proof is required.

Westbrook is animus personified. He demands that you bear witness to his evidence of worthiness. He sets out to prove that the Thunder don’t need Durant every time he takes the floor. And — well, hell, OKC is 6th in the West with a 25-18 record. They would need KD to challenge for top billing, but I wouldn’t shake a stick at what they’ve been able to accomplish behind Westbrook’s unflinching appetite for destruction.

The Thunder will be without Steven Adams, who’s under the league’s concussion protocol following a nasty fall against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. While this saves us Warriors fans from hearing snarky tweets all night long about Draymond Green’s hackysack antics, it does not help the Thunder’s cause. Jerami Grant started against the LA Clippers in Adams’ place, and the same should be expected of Wednesday’s matchup — a small-ball-by-necessity arrangement that isn’t likely to take advantage of the Warriors’ areas of “weakness” (rebounding and turnovers).

Which just means we’ll see even more of Westbrook. And I think we all win for that. Except for the rim.