This Thursday at 9 PM CT, The Oklahoma City Thunder will meet the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center in San Francisco. This is the second matchup of the season between these two franchises. The Thunder fell to the warriors back on November 3rd in what was the first In-Season Tournament game for both teams. The Thunder were the home team in their last game but will be on the road for this one. Luckily this is not an In-Season Tournament game so we will be getting normal courts (no offense to those who like the new courts). So, lets go ahead and dive right into this matchup.
First we’ll take a look back at how the Thunder are doing coming into this game. OKC is currently on a two game win streak. They defeated the Suns on November 12th and blew out the Spurs by 36 points on November 14th. As a Thunder fan, that Spurs game was certainly fun to watch. But as a basketball fan I can’t say it was the most riveting experience. The game lost its competitive edge early in the second half.
There are a few things that stuck with me during and after this game. One of which is that there was no point throughout the entire contest where I did not think Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was going to score 30 points. I ended up being wrong when it was all said and done. Shai got to 28 points and was benched for the entirety of the fourth quarter (the kind of benching you want to see). I have mentioned before that the Thunders formula for winning largely hinges on SGA getting to that 30 point mark. Even though that was not the case for this game I would still say that Shai’s offense was the biggest key for the Thunder victory.
Steals and Scuffles
Another thing from this game that stood out to me was the turnover margin. The Thunder came away with 19 steals while the Spurs only managed to get 7. Disruptive defense supported by good positional length has become an identity of this Thunder team. Lastly, I would be doing you all a disservice If I did not mention the scuffles that broke out.
I personally do not mind seeing players get emotional as it shows how invested they are, but the last thing anyone wants to see is an unnecessary injury or ejection. As a fan of the team that just played Zach Collins, he can definitely come off as unlikeable. But I would not go as far as to say that he is a dirty player. Players like Zach Collins and Jeremy Sochan add physicality and the unique ability to get under the skin of opposing players. I would be lying if I said that players like Patrick Beverley and Draymond Green don’t add entertainment value to the league (we’ll touch on Draymond later).
What to Watch for
Shifting the focus to the Thunders upcoming game against the Warriors, here are some things to keep in mind while watching. The guard play between these two teams will be a game of its own. Stephen Curry will be out for this game, but Chris Paul and Klay Thompson will still be at the top of the Thunders scouting report. I am hoping to see Cason Wallace get some minutes guarding Chris Paul. The Rookie guard out of Kentucky has been playing solid defense. We will likely see Luguentz Dort get a variety of assignments on defense. Lu Dort will spend some time guarding Chris Paul and Klay Thompson, but could also be tasked with guarding Andrew Wiggins.
Curry has been the Warriors leading scorer this season. Klay Thompson will need to take on more of the offensive burden, and he has notoriously stepped up his game in past meetings against the Thunder (I still see game 6 Klay in my nightmares). With no Curry the Warriors will need more shot attempts to make up for the points he gives them (30 ppg). I expect to see an increased roll from players like Dario Saric, Moses Moody, and Brandin Podziemski. The Thunder seem to have all their players healthy as of right now. Kenrich Williams was dealing with back spasms to start the season, but looked good against the Spurs in 15 minutes of action. As a vet and glue guy for this team, Kenrich’s impact will definitely be visible in this game against the Warriors.
Drama with Draymond
Before I take my guess at the final score, we have to talk about Draymond Green. For those who missed it, Draymond Green was ejected from the 11/14 game against the Timberwolves. He’s seen his fair share of ejections over the years, but this one was special to say the least. As a brawl ensued between several players just a couple of minutes into the game, Draymond went full MMA mode and put opposing center Rudy Gobert in a chokehold. The clip is certainly nothing short of a spectacle.
The league will have to decide if Green is to face a suspension. If he is suspended he will not be playing in the game against the Thunder. But if he does get to suit up, will he be able to get under the skin of any Thunder players? We just saw Kenrich get into it with Zach Collins and Chet Holmgren almost go at Jeremy Sochan. Despite all that I don’t think we will see another brawl in this matchup. But I would make a bet that there will be at least one technical foul handed out.
Prediction – Warriors
The Warriors are a different team without Steph Curry. He is not a system player because he is the system (shoutout James Harden). Then again this Warriors team is well coached and is going to compete no matter what. This was evident in their game against the Timberwolves. They only ended up losing by 3 points despite not having Curry, Thompson, or Green (after they were ejected). I believe that if the Thunder are playing active defense and clogging the passing lanes like they were against the Spurs, then this game will likely go their way. Chris Paul should assume most of the ball handling duties. But look for rookie Brandin Podziemski to get a good amount of run at the point guard spot as well. A rookie ball handler provides a great opportunity for the Thunder to rack up more steals.
Prediction – Thunder
Kevon Looney is going to give the Thunder some problems. He is an animal on the offensive glass and gives his teammates plenty of looks at second chance points. Looney has the strength advantage over Chet Holmgren and will act as a tough anchor on defense. Chet might not be as effective around the rim in this game, but his ability to hit the three pointer consistently posses a tough wrinkle for the Warriors. Taking all of this into consideration, I predict the final score to be 115-106.