Thunder at Warriors: What to Watch 4
Four areas of special interest in tonight’s matchup at Oracle Arena against the league-leading Oklahoma City Thunder.
- Neither the Warriors or Thunder are especially adept at forcing turnovers – the former ranks 26th in the league and the latter, surprisingly, is middle-of-the-pack at 14th. Both are prone to turn turning the ball over when they have it at an alarmingly high rate, too. The Thunder rank second in turnover percentage while the Warriors aren’t far behind at seventh. Taking all that into consideration, this isn’t an important area to watch tonight because the ball will be thrown all over the court and miscues will rue the day. Instead, turnovers could prove especially influential to the game’s outcome because of what happens once they’re committed. OKC, on the strength of a devastating transition attack headed by their two superstars, gets 17.6% of their points off turnovers – 10th in the league – despite forcing them at an average rate. Few makes a team pay for their mistakes like the Thunder, a sobering thought given Golden State’s sometimes sloppy ballhandling. And unfortunately, the Warriors won’t be able to even the score via Oklahoma City miscues; they rank dead last in points off turnovers.
Kendrick Perkins’ Minutes
- Perkins’ role is under constant scrutiny from fans and media alike. The advanced numbers say his impact on the Thunder is overwhelmingly negative, and that’s been the case since he was acquired via trade in March 2011. His teammates and coaches, on the other hand, routinely point to his defense and leadership as reason to justify his 24.7 minutes per game. Why that matters given the metrics is anyone’s guess, but for this season at least Oklahoma City’s consistent commitment to Perkins is clear. And that’s a good thing for the Warriors, because they have the personnel to exploit his weaknesses on both ends of the floor. Perkins is slow of foot and can struggle recovering to his man in pick-and-rolls and rotating quickly enough to ensure a shooter is contested on the weakside. In that same vein, big men that can step away from the basket and play from 15-feet extended routinely give him problems. Watch for Golden State’s Jack-Curry-Thompson-Lee-Landry quintet and how the Thunder react to it. On paper, at least, Perkins won’t be able to keep up on defense and isn’t skilled enough to hurt the Warriors on the other end. If he’s on the floor for stretches when both Lee and Landry are, it’s undoubtedly advantage Golden State.
- Pace adjusted, the Warriors allow the second-most three-point attempts in the league. Conversely, opponents are shooting just 32.7% against Golden State from beyond the arc, but that’s a notoriously fickle statistic. Counting on a team to miss a bunch of threes normally isn’t a sustainable way to defend in the NBA, especially when the squad shooting them is one as deadly from deep as Oklahoma City. Golden State is tied for the league lead in three-point accuracy; the team matching their 39.3% mark? These very Thunder. Durant, Kevin Martin, and Thabo Sefolosha are shooting at least 41.7% on threes this season., and Russell Westbrook and even Serge Ibaka are bigger threats than ever from that range, too. OKC connected on 15-of-27 three-pointers last night in a win over the Clippers in Los Angeles, an anomaly but something that should still give the Warriors major cause for concern. On the other side, Golden State is obviously proficient in this area, too. The Thunder rank 11th in three-point attempts allowed this season and the Warriors will no doubt look to exploit it. OKC isn’t the most disciplined team defensively, and GSW can take advantage of that fact with quick, decisive ball movement.
- Both Westbrook and Durant are devastating in pick-and-roll situations as the ballhandler, able to finish at the rim with rare authority and explosion or pull-up for an uncontested mid-range jumper. They’re willing and effective passers, too, Durant in particular improving the array of passes in his repertoire and having developed more court awareness this season. It’s truly a pick-your-poison scenario here, and – provided they defend the way they have all season – we know which route Golden State will go. The Warriors have changed their coverage of PNRs this season, forcing the dribbler away from the screen and into an awaiting pocket 15-to-20 feet away from the basket created by the roller/popper’s man. This strategy cedes an open jumper from that very space, but GSW has decided that’s better than allowing the penetration from both players involved in the action. And against Westbrook and Durant that’s especially true. They can hit that shot, no doubt, but making them take it is still a win for the defense. If either is particularly hot or cold from there, that could be the difference in the game.
Statistical support for this article provided by NBA.com.
Follow Jack Winter on Twitter @armstrongwinter.