Though it may not be a painless path, and certainly not an easy one, the Golden State Warriors show no signs of surrendering the season. With just two wins and seven losses, it’s all too easy to write off this team as nothing but a placeholder, a bookmark that will rest in between the pages of greatness while the franchise writes it’s next chapter.
But don’t let D’Angelo Russell, Eric Paschall, and the rest of the current lineup hear you. For them, this is a chance to capitalize on an opportunity - just look at Russell’s career high last night... or Paschall, who’s earlier 34 point, 13 rebound performance against the Portland Trail Blazers legitimately thrust him into the rookie of the year conversation.
So no, the wins have not been easy to come by so far this season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win this game tonight.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (2-7) at Oklahoma City Thunder (3-5)
WHERE: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
WHEN: Saturday November 9th, 2019; 5pm PST
WATCH: NBC Sports - Bay Area
Blog Buddy: Welcome to loud city
What have the Warriors been doing right?
Without superstars, Golden State has somehow managed to keep their head above water offensively. The team is amongst the very best at getting to the free throw line - their 23.6 attempts from the line is tops in the NBA - D’Angelo Russell leads the charge at around six attempts per game, but Eric Paschall isn’t too far behind (4.4 free throws per game). This is a hugely needed development, and with both players figuring to play a large role in whatever this team looks like in the near future, something that we can point to as a success story in a season noticeably short on those.
On top of that, the Warriors are shooting 87% as a team from the charity strip - meaning all those attempts aren’t wasted.
Another silver lining is the offensive rebounding from a few of the less heralded members of this squad. As per basketballreference.com, the Warriors pull down rebounds at an impressive 24% rate - good enough to be top ten in the NBA (7th by rebounding rate, 3rd when you just look at offensive boards per game).
So it’s not like nothing is working. This team has looked incredibly competitive (at times) against the Rockets and Blazers. With the return of a high powered offensive force in Russell, this game is one that the Warriors could win tonight against a Thunder team that finds itself just as fundamentally transformed this season as the Warriors are.
Checking on our buddies out there in OKC
The interactions of teams and fan bases can be a funny thing. After being mostly neutral towards each other for years, the swapping of Kevin Durant fundamentally changed the interrelations. Maybe it was the way the vociferously mocked an injured player, even going as far (“too far”) as allowing a young girl on crutches and wearing a cupcake costume down on the sideline.
Scowling, ball-punishing dribble machine Russell Westbrook is gone, replaced by an equally scowling dribble machine with worse hamstrings but a better understanding of the game, Chris Paul.
Alongside him in the backcourt, Warriors fans are about to become acquainted with ex-Los Angeles Clipper prodigy Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Like the young Warriors, the Thunder are eagerly watching the flashes of promise from their newly discovered youth movement even as the team struggles mightily to remain competitive. Along with Danilo Gallinari, the Thunder have a couple of players that, while inconsistent, can score just as effectively as some of the best in the league.
Looking at their team stats, Oklahoma City doesn’t do a whole lot well on offense. The team ranks 24th in offensive efficiency but has found a way to win off of their defense - which is ranked 8th, as per basketball reference. But their defense is still elite - so this will be a classic showdown between two teams with distinctly different offensive- and defensive-focused game plans.
I asked my 10 year-old daughter if this was going to be a win tonight or not, and she said, “of course, they’re the Warriors.”
She followed it up with this though. “Wait. Who’s playing?”
Doesn’t matter, Ruby. Doesn’t matter. Warriors are winning this one!
Go ahead and place your bets!