- When: Thursday, 11 April 2013 at 9:30 PM CST
- Where: ORACLE Arena, Oakland, CA
Hello, number 1 seed in the Western Conference. It’s nice to see you again. The last time we met, you only stayed for about 24 hours before you went back with your older friend. That’s fine. I get it. But I’m ready to commit to you now, number 1 seed. Let’s work on this tonight. (…and cue cheesy saxophone music).
Once again, the Oklahoma City Thunder control their own destiny in the Western Conference. Match the San Antonio Spurs in these final 4 games, and the conference, and home court advantage throughout the Western portion of the playoffs, is yours. The more difficult stretch of those final 4 games begins tonight in Oakland versus the upstart Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors, under coaches Don Nelson and Keith Smart, used to be a team that was all offense and little, to no, defense. Under coach Mark Jackson, though, the Warriors have become the epitome of a balanced team. This balance has led to a 45-33 record, good for 6th in the conference. The defense, though not necessarily great, has focused primarily on interior defense and rebounding. David Lee is a walking double-double machine, and Andrew Bogut, while working himself back from 2 injury plagued seasons, has been consistent defensively. The offense revolves around the perimeter shooting of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, with rookie Harrison Barnes providing most of the wing scoring. Off the bench, the Warriors don’t miss a beat with Festus Ezeli and Carl Landry providing the interior support and Jarrett Jack doing the work from the perimeter.
The season series between these two teams has been a home affair, with the home team winning each game. The two games in Oklahoma City were one-sided affairs with the Thunder winning both games by double digits. The one game in Oakland was a back and forth affair the Golden State took control of in the 4th quarter to win by 5.
Probable Starting Line-ups
- PG – Stephen Curry
- SG – Klay Thompson
- SF – Harrison Barnes
- PF – David Lee
- C – Andrew Bogut
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Thabo Sefolosha
- SF – Kevin Durant
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Kendrick Perkins
3 Keys to the Game
1. Board Work – Rebounding will be very important to the outcome of this game. Golden State is second in team rebounds in the league. Much like the Indiana Pacers game, if the Thunder want to shut down one of the Warriors’ strengths, they need to be disciplined on the glass. With their propensity to shoot the 3-ball, expect many long rebounds and tap outs. Rebounding will need to be a total team effort in this game.
2. Perimeter Defense – As balanced as Golden State is, their bread and butter begins with the perimeter shooting of Curry and Thompson. Making each of these two players hesitate on their shots and put the ball on the floor is a defensive victory. Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook will need to stay on their man and not get sucked into the vacuum of the interior.
3. Kevin Martin – If this turns into a perimeter shooting contest, the Thunder will need Martin to help Kevin Durant, Westbrook, and Sefolosha from the outside. While Martin had been mired in a mini slump this month, he played great from mid-March on and had a good game against the Knicks. This would be a great game for him to break out of his funk.