Here is the proverbial measuring stick game for teams trying to move on out the basement and into the conversation of playoff contenders. After beating the Los Angeles Clippers who have the second best record in the NBA at home, the Warriors get the best team in the league that just waxed the same Clippers at the Staples Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder dusted the CP3-less Clippers 109-97 in a game where MVP candidate Kevin Durant looked unstoppable, as he does most nights, with 32 points on 12 of 19 shooting (5 of 6 on 3’s).
The Warriors are obviously feeling pretty good after their resilient win over the Clipps on MLK Day. It was another feather in the cap for a team looking to change their identity. Led by Stephen Curry’s unconsicous fourth quarter (16 points and 4 treys that put the game out of reach), the Dubs have been able to overcome late adversity in games recently that seemingly would have doomed them in past.
Tonight’s game should be no different. It is likely that the Thunder, winners of eight of their last 10 games, will do what they do, score the ball with efficiency. The Dubs need to weather an early storm and wear down a team that played the night before in an emotional game for league supremacy. More importantly, the Dubs will need to defend everyone not named KD or Russell Westbrook. You cannot guard either one, as Dan Patrick says, you can only hope to contain them. But, the rest of the Thunder should be a little easier to handle. If the Warriors make Batman and Robin volume shooters and limit easy buckets for the rest, they should be in the game. The X-Factor of course is whether or not Kevin Martin shoots 10 plus free throws in this game and becomes a bug-a-boo for whoever is guarding him (Stu Jackson should watch this game for excessive flopping).
On offense, the Dubs need to keep doing what they have been doing, scoring effectively and from deep. The game against the Clippers was one of the best offensive games of the year from a statistical standpoint (52.0% fg, 54.5% 3fg, 88.9% ft) just too many turnovers (17 total). Building on games like this is what the good teams do and if they can keep momentum from the Clipper game and take advantage of the scheduling then it should be a good game. Granted, OKC is not going to mail in anything, but scheduling should play a factor on some level.
Keys to the Game
Make It Tough: Harrison Barnes will likely draw Durant in the beginning of the game mixed in with some Draymond Green. These guys have to at least contest shots and not give up layups or free throw chances to the scoring savant. Durant is likely going to go for 25+ but make him do it on 25 shots.
No Hangover: Games like this are what competitors live for. But the Dubs can’t still be reveling in their season series win over the Clipps otherwise they get steamrolled. Coming out strong and staying engaged in the game is a must.
No Freebies: Limit trips to the free throw line. OKC, like the Warriors, shoots a high percentage from the line. The difference, they get there more than the Dubs. Players like the aforementioned Kevin Martin are adept at drawing fouls in the act of shooting and living at the line. That is sometimes the difference in a game that is played pretty evenly.
WHO: Oklahoma City Thunder (33-9) vs. Golden State Warriors (25-15)
WHERE: Oracle Area
WHEN: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., CSN Bay Area, NBAtv