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Opening Night Preview: Warriors open title defense against short-handed Thunder

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With injuries on both sides, opening night will feature some new pieces on Golden State as they face Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Game information

Who: Golden State Warriors vs Oklahoma City Thunder

When: 7:30PM PST on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

Where: Oracle Arena — Oakland, CA

How to watch: TNT

How to listen: 95.7 The Game

Injuries

Warriors: Draymond Green (sore left knee) will “play in spurts”, Shaun Livingston (foot) is doubtful.

Thunder: Russell Westbrook (knee recovery), Andre Roberson (also knee) are both out; Steven Adams listed as “questionable.”

Warriors start their chase of a threepeat with a slightly different roster

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are all in their primes. They are the main reason why the Warriors are hoping to secure their third consecutive championship, but they can’t do it alone.

While the main players are all returning, Golden State has tinkered a bit around the edges — or more specifically, at their center. Zaza Pachulia and Javale Mcgee started 57 and 17 games, respectively, last season. Both are now gone, leaving a massive hole at the starting center position. Damian Jones will get the initial nod, but expect Kerr to be quick to pull him out if things don’t go well. Jordan Bell and Kevon Looney are both undersized, but possess a basketball acumen that may argue strongly for their place above Jones on the depth chart as the season goes on. Look for Bell and Looney to both challenge Jones for the starting role sooner rather than later.

There are plenty of fringe minutes to go around, even before Shaun Livingston was out. Quinn Cook excelled last season and will likely be called on throughout the season to serve as a primary ball handler. Newcomers Jonas Jerebko and Alfonzo McKinnie will try to sop up wing minutes. Watch for Kerr to do plenty of experimenting with this roster as the season progresses. If Jerebko can’t find his shot, then it will throw a lot of the rotation into chaos as Kerr will again be hunting for scoring off the bench (at least until Demarcus Cousins is ready).

Injuries? Already?

Let’s get the Thunder out of the way first, shall we?
OKC will be without a pair of critical guards, and possibly their starting center. Not a great way to come into the season.

The Warriors are not without their own set of problems though.

On the cautious end of the injury spectrum is Shaun Livingston. After not practicing for the past two days, he has been formally listed as questionable against the Thunder. Given his limited playing time recently, even if Livingston is available to go, it’s likely to be under a severe minutes restriction.

Without Patrick McCaw (who is still in his hermit cave somewhere) the Warriors are going to be facing a real dearth of guard options. The Thunder have it worse with the absence of two critical back court players, but that doesn’t alleviate the rotational impact that Livingston’s absence will cause for the Warriors.

More troubling for Warriors fans is the issue of Draymond Green’s left knee. Green has already missed some time in the preseason, and the issue was serious enough to warrant an MRI. While the MRI came back favorable, it was swollen enough to keep him out of action less than two weeks ago.

“Draymond did not practice today and he won’t play in Seattle,” Kerr said after practice. “Just being careful. He still had a little inflammation this morning. The MRI was good, it was clean, so not any major long-term concern. But just trying to be smart.”

Kerr admitted he wasn’t sure if this injury would linger for Green, but the All-Star forward didn’t seem too worried about it. Green spent time after practice speaking to visitors at the Warriors facility, and Kerr remains hopeful that Green will be able to practice again soon.

Backing up just a bit, it’s important to emphasize that there’s not a ton of detail available on the extent of this injury. However, Green was admittedly hampered by a shoulder injury last season sustained early in the year. So there’s a certain old school vibe with him that could encourage him to just play through “minor dings.” The problem is that those minor dings can quickly turn into serious issues.

Although the MRI didn’t find any structural damage, something caused the initial swelling and discomfort. At this point, the move is relatively cautionary, but Green’s plan to try to play through something like this is concerning.

Ring night!

Tune in early because the Warriors will hold a short ceremony prior to the game to hand out the championship rings and unveil yet another banner for Oracle arena.

Up next

The Warriors open the season slowly. After tonight’s game, Golden State plays just one more game this week on Friday against Utah before hitting their first back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday of next week.