The Golden State Warriors (11-15) will be on the road tonight (5 p.m. PST) to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (22-7) with the hopes of extracting some revenge from their two previous defeats at the hands of OKC. To preview the game, we had Royce Young of Daily Thunder and our Warriors World staff answered some questions.
The last time these two teams met, Monta Ellis dropped 48 points on the Thunder in while Kevin Durant had an All-Star type of night pouring in 33 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out seven assists. And for good measure, he hit the game-winning jumper. What’s on tap for tonight?
1. In two games against the Golden State Warriors, Russell Westbrook is averaging 29.5 points per game and 9 assists per game on 53.7 percent field goal shooting. Mind you, Westbrook is also averaging a staggering 8 turnovers per game against the Dubs. Is Monta Ellis some sort of Russ stopper?
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: I don’t know about stopper, but he’s certainly good at getting Westbrook to play way too fast and way too aggressive. The whole flow of a game against the Warriors is different. It’s a quicker pace and with Ellis constantly attacking, it gets Westbrook’s juices flowing. He gets careless with the ball, tries to force things and turns it over. He still plays well as evidenced by the other numbers, but he does give it away.
Rasheed Malek, Warriors World: I wouldn’t say he’s a stopper, or anything close to that. Monta hasn’t played any semblance of defense since his first two seasons in the NBA; we can’t say he’s a so-called “Stopper” of anyone.
J.M. Poulard, Warriors World: Monta has given Westbrook some fits especially in post up opportunities where he likes to swipe at the ball, but Ellis is not the proverbial Westbrook stopper.
RW is a fabulous player that often has lapses as far as his decision making goes and that has been somewhat amplified against the Warriors because both meetings have had a higher pace than usual; which in turn has resulted in more opportunities for the former Bruin to turn the ball over. For a player as terrific as Westbrook, those figures have to come down at some point.
2. Which frontcourt will have the better game?
Royce Young: The Warriors’, mainly because David Lee torches OKC in the pick-and-roll. The Thunder’s pick-and-roll defense has been inconsistent all season and Lee does a really nice job with it. Plus, Kendrick Perkins won’t play because of a knee bruise and that means a lot of Nazr Mohammed, which isn’t a great thing for OKC.
Rasheed Malek: Warriors front-court should have the advantage even with the corpse of Andris Biedrins starting at Center. The Thunder will be without Kendrick Perkins (Knee) which should be beneficial to the Warriors, look for David Lee to have a big night.
J.M. Poulard: David Lee has been on top of his game as of late with his scoring and rebounding. Where most teams have shifted their attention towards the Dubs’ backcourt, Lee has been sneaking by opponents by cutting to the basket, hitting the offensive glass and scoring on the block because teams have been reluctant to send out double teams given the Warriors’ 3-point shooting ability.
Although Lee is paired up with Andris Biedrins whose best skill right now may be resembling a very young Rick Barry, he will be facing a frontline that will feature the highflying Serge Ibaka who vetoes more moves than David Stern, and Nazr Mohammed (Perkins is out with an injury). The former Gator should get ample opportunities to affect the game in the pick-and-roll and on the boards and will probably match the production of both Ibaka and Mohammed; which is a win for the Dubs.
3. What is the X-factor in tonight’s game?
Royce Young: James Harden. It’s pretty simple. When he plays well, the Thunder do as well. When he doesn’t, that forces Westbrook and Durant to pick up a lot of slack. Harden has played solid against the Warriors thus far, but if he brings his normal home court excellence, the Thunder should be alright.
Rasheed Malek: Turnovers and 3-pt shooting. If the Warriors can limit their turnovers and prevent the Thunder from getting out on the break, they should have a chance at winning the game. They’ll also need to be hot from distance, Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush and Steph Curry will need to be deadeye tonight.
J.M. Poulard: Rebounding. In the first contest, OKC won by double digits on the road despite 22 turnovers because they dominated the boards. In the second contest, the game came down to the wire because the Warriors won the rebounding battle and Ellis exploded for 48 points.
How both teams do on the rebounding front early should give us a clear indication of how the game will unfold.