The Oklahoma City Thunder (57-21) travel to Oakland Thursday night to square off against the Golden State Warriors (45-33) in a battle of playoff-bound Western Conference teams.
Not only is there a chance that this game could be a preview of a potential postseason series, the raw talent from both teams could make this one of the most interesting battles all season.
Add in the fact that this matchup will be nationally televised (TNT), and the majority of the NBA will be focusing on this game to see just how good each of these teams really are heading into the playoffs.
Both rosters are stacked with depth, but Thursday’s winner will be decided by which team plays best together and doesn’t crack under the intense offensive pressure of their opponents.
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, Calif.
When: Thursday, April 11 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBA League Pass
Betting Line: Not available as of Wednesday, April 10
Injuries (via CBSSports)
No injuries reported.
Brandon Rush, SG, Out for season.
Key Storylines: Playoff Posturing
As important as this game is for both teams to set the tone against their potential playoff opponents, with both teams already locked into the postseason, this on-court battle is all about jostling for a better spot in the standings.
Oklahoma City is looking to take the top spot in the West away from the San Antonio Spurs—a team dealing with injuries across the depth chart (h/t Sports Illustrated)—and a big win over the Warriors would send a message to the rest of the conference.
As for Golden State, the team has worried about injuries for most of the season, but the lineup is as healthy as it has been since the start of the year. Now that the Warriors are locked into the playoffs, it’s all about fighting for a better spot to avoid facing the best teams (including OKC) in the first round.
Both teams are not only looking to send a message to their opponents Thursday, but also ensuring that the rest of the Western Conference knows just how tough each will be in the postseason.
Key Matchup: Stephen Curry vs. Russell Westbrook
In one of the best point guard battles the NBA will see all season, Golden State’s Stephen Curry will square off against Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in a matchup guaranteed to provide some fireworks.
Curry has blossomed without the departed Monta Ellis dominating the shot chart, and the young star is having the best statistical year of his career because of that. With 22.5 points, 6.9 assists and four rebounds per game, Curry has evolved into a bona fide NBA superstar.
As talented as the Golden State PG has been, there is just as much talent in Oklahoma City at the point with Westbrook and many would argue that the Thunder PG is the better all-around player than Curry.
Westbrook is averaging 23.4 points, 7.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Thunder, but it has been his ability to step up with the departure of James Harden and mature as both a player and as a ball distributor.
Do not miss this battle.
Predicted Starting Lineups
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
Prediction: Oklahoma City 99, Golden State 97
While each of these teams wants to send a message to the other, this game is about how the entire Western Conference and the NBA looks at these two franchises heading into the postseason.
Both the Thunder and the Warriors will battle to steal this nationally-televised matchup, but the talent of Kevin Durant, Westbrook and the entire Oklahoma City lineup will be too much for Golden State to hold off all game.
There is no doubt the Warriors have the offensive talent to get hot behind the three-point line and keep this game very close, but the lack of an elite defense will have Oklahoma City hitting the big shots all night.
As great as Golden State can be at times, the Thunder are the more consistent squad and this will reflect in a hard-fought win Thursday night.