GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (55-14)
at OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (40-29)
Tip-off: Monday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Golden State -2.0, Total: 221.0
Russell Westbrook and the Thunder take on the Warriors in Oklahoma City on Monday night.
The Warriors have had some trouble over the past few weeks, but people have still overreacted a bit. Golden State is still at the top of the Western Conference, and the team would have home court advantage throughout the course of the postseason if the season ended today. This matchup with Oklahoma City will, however, be a tough one. These teams have some bad blood this season, as SF Kevin Durant left the Thunder to play for the Warriors after Golden State beat Oklahoma City in a seven-game series in last yearís Western Conference Finals. This has turned into something of a rivalry due to the emotions, but the results donít really suggest that this has been a competitive matchup. Golden State has won all three matchups with Oklahoma City by double digits this season. That includes a win in Chesapeake Energy Arena, where the crowd was very hostile towards Durant. It is worth noting, however, that Durant is not going to be playing in this game. Durant hurt his knee against the Wizards on Feb. 28 and he has missed each of the past nine games for Golden State. He is expected to be back for the postseason, but that is no guarantee.
With Durant out, PG Steph Curry (25.0 PPG, 6.3 APG, 1.8 SPG) is going to need to take over for Golden State on Monday. In three meetings with the Thunder this season, Curry is averaging 23.7 PPG, 8.0 APG and 2.3 SPG. He is, however, shooting just 34.8% from three in those games. Heíll be hoping to be a bit better from there in this one, but heíll also need to play well defensively. If he does not hold his own when matched up with Westbrook then the Thunder will likely win this game. SG Klay Thompson (22.1 PPG) will also spend some time guarding Westbrook. Thompson can be one of the better perimeter defenders in the league when heís engaged, and he must be on Monday. Heíll also need to get hot from deep, as the Warriors will need his scoring in this game. Theyíll also need PF Draymond Green (10.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 7.2 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.5 BPG) to continue to play his elite two-way game. If he can defend the inside then the Thunder are going to have a lot of trouble in this game. It is, however, possible that Golden State will need to play him more at the four. Oklahoma City is huge up front, and Green might have trouble with that.
If the Thunder are going to win their first game against the Warriors this season then this would be it. With Durant out, itís probably safe to say that PG Russell Westbrook (31.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 10.3 APG, 1.7 SPG) is going to be the best player on the floor in this one. Westbrook is still averaging a triple-double this season, and itís hard to imagine him not posting yet another one on Monday. Heís going to attack the basket relentlessly in this game, but heíll also do his best to get his teammates involved. Itíd be big if guys like SG Victor Oladipo (16.4 PPG, 1.2 SPG), C Enes Kanter (14.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG) and C Steven Adams (11.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG) can step it up here. Oladipo has been playing well recently, and he can take pressure off of Westbrook on the perimeter. Kanter and Adams, meanwhile, will need to dominate the paint.