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What to Watch For – Game – 18

Safe to say Warriors point guard Stephen Curry likes playing against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He averaged30.5 points against the Thunder last season, including 39 and 35 in Oklahoma City.

In seven career games against the Thunder, Curry averages 25.9 points on 58.6 percent shooting – which includes 21-for-39 from 3-point range. He also averages 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals. He would never say it, but I’d bet he relishes playing against Russell Westbrook, who many consider the standard for point guard converts. Perhaps it’s a bit of validation for all his haters, who love Westbrook but question Curry.

Of course, Curry may be looking for validation from Westbrook in other areas, such as his expected contract extension. Westbrook recently signed a five-year, $80 million extension with Oklahoma City. That begs the question: how much should Curry get?

CURRY: “There’s no point in talking about that right now. I want an extension. I want to be here. But right now I’m focused on helping our team win some games and getting us where we need to be. There will be a time to talk about that stuff, but that time is not now.”

The deadline for Curry’s extension is Oct. 31. If the sides can’t agree on a contract extension, the Warriors would tender Curry an offer to make him a restricted free agent. That would allow Curry to play the market and the Warriors the option to match. If he doesn’t sign an extension, and doesn’t sign an offer sheet, Curry can accept the one-year deal and become an unrestricted free agent the following season. That is highly unlikely. If Curry reaches free agent status, he will get an offer sheet. But I doubt it gets that far.

The only question is how much. Westbrook’s contract, no doubt, pushes the baseline.

According to multiple team sources, Curry (who is making a prorated version of $3.1 million)at this point could not command Westbrook’s contract. The logic: Westbrook is an All-Star who has helped his team to the Western Conference finals. Curry is an All-Star Weekend participant whose team has yet to make the playoffs. And, of course, current ankle concerns are a major factor.

But, as one source acknowledged, Curry deserves more than, say, Memphis PG Mike Conley, who got a five-year, $45 million extension from Memphis before the 2010 season. So at this point, Curry should at least fall somewhere between $10 million and $16 million per year. I can see Curry saying he should at least be right behind Westbrook, which puts him somewhere between $12 and $15 million per year. How much Curry gets has a great impact on the rest of the roster. David Lee will be pulling in nearly $14 million. If Ellis is still around, he will be up for an extension, too.

The Warriors would seem to have the leverage, though. Because they can give Curry the fifth year, he would have to take less money to go to another team. In order for Curry to become an unrestricted free agent, he would have to play under a one-year contract, which is always a risky option when a multi-year deal is on the table.

Still, can the Warriors afford not to re-sign Curry? After touting him and turning down offers for him (Chris Paul), can they now come back and say he doesn’t deserve the max or close to it? Can they really afford to get into drawn negotiations and public scrutiny by haggling over salary with Curry, who everyone knows has options, after giving David Lee $13 million a year despite no tangible offer from another team?

This extension situation will definitely be interesting.

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Who defends Kevin Durant: Last year, coach Keith Smart found success by putting guard Monta Ellis on Durant. Sounds gimmicky, right? The 6-foot-3 Ellis on Durant, who is listed as 6-9 but believed to be closer to a 7-footer.

But Smart had some crazy stat to support his scheme – something about 90 percent of Durant’s points come from outside. Ellis did have some success. He is quick enough to stay in front of Durant, though Durant can shoot over Ellis.

The Thunder’s trio of scorers are so tough to match-up with. Durant, Westbrook and James Harden –Oklahoma City’s not-so-secret weapon – average 62.9 points per game. They all are aggressive and super skilled at putting the ball in the hole. Harden is a beast because he can shoot well (currently 40 percent from 3) and he can penetrate.

Fortunately for Jackson, he has a few options. He can bring in Brandon Rush and Dominic McGuire, two solid defenders, to defend one of those three.

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Golden State’s inside scoring: Oklahoma City is second in the NBA in blocks per game (7.0). They’ve got some brick walls at PF and C in Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.

Will the Warriors challenge the inside or settle for outside jumpers.

If the Warriors’ challenge, it may be to their benefit. Sure, they’ll get a few shots swatted to the front row. But the Thunder is prone to fouling. Oklahoma City commits 21 fouls per game and its opponents attempts 24.3 free throws per game – both rank 21st in the league.

Getting to the line might be the best way to attack the Thunder, which ranks tied for second in field goal percentage (41.5 percent) and defends the 3-point line (opponents shoot 28.3 percent from deep) better than any team in the league.

Marcus Thompson