The Warriors aren’t supposed to win. And they probably won’t.
But how much different would their season, their record look, if they walked out of Oklahoma City with a victory? Playoff teams win big games on the road. Golden State already has one under their belt this season, beating the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. But beating the Thunder, the defending champions in the Western Conference, on their court would be a real boon to the young Golden State squad.
Of course, staying competitive could even have a positive effect. What the Warriors don’t need is to get run out of the gym like they did against the Lakers.
More on Sunday night’s game …
KEY MATCHUP: Westbrook v. Curry
The Warriors are playing against a superior team, on the road. If they have any chance of winning, Curry has to have a big game. Curry usually plays well against Westbrook. In 10 career games vs. Oklahoma City, Curry is averaging 22.3 points on 55.2 percent shooting with 6.2 assists.
Knowing Westbrook (who is averaging 19.6 points and 8.5 assists this season) is such a vital part of Oklahoma City’s attack, how Curry fares tonight will go a long way to determining the Warriors’ chances.
LINEUP MOVEMENT: GSW — SG Klay Thompson (flu) will be a game-time decision. If he doesn’t play, Jackson will have an interesting choice to make. He could:
* Start Jarrett Jack and move Stephen Curry to shooting guard. Curry figures to have an easier time defending Thabo Sefalosha than he would Westbrook. It also puts Curry in scoring mode (though Sefalosha is a good defender). However, the Jack-Curry backcourt is usally Jackson’s adjustment move. If he starts the game with that, what will be his adjustment
* Start Richard Jefferson. In this lineup, either RJ or Harrison Barnes would play shooting guard, with whoever loses the coin flip getting to defend Kevin Durant and the other Sefalosha. This leaves the small lineup intact off the bench.
* He could start Charles Jenkins. Other than Curry, Jenkins is the Warriors’ best healthy scoring guard. He could give Jackson some of the offensive punch the Warriors would miss not having Klay Thompson in the starting lineup. However, Jenkins would have his hands full defending the slick Kevin Martin.
LATEST WITH OKC: The Thunder is 7-3 (4-2 at home) and atop the Northwest Division.
Oklahoma City is one of the most potent offenses in the league. They are 8th in the league in scoring (100 ppg), 4th in scoring differential (+6.2), third in FG percentage (48.0) and 3FG percentage (41.0), and tops in FT percentage (84.0).
Since being acquired in the James Harden trade, Kevin Martin has looked like a worthy replacement. Harden was one of the Thunder’s best weapons. But in his first 10 games, all off the bench, Martin has averaged 17.1 points on 48 percent shooting.
However, Oklahoma City loses a bit of the floor general they relied on with Harden. Back-up PG Eric Maynor (who missed all of last year with a knee issue) figured to fill that void, but he’s only averaging 13.2 minutes this season.
BIG TEST: The Warriors have been pounding the glass and scoring inside like crazy. The last two games, they’ve outrebounded their opponents by a total of 31 rebounds and outscored them in the paint by 62 points.
But that was against two teams missing their best big men. Tonight the Warriors take on arguably the best tandem of defensive big men in the league in C Kendrick Perkins and PF Serge Ibaka. Can the Warriors continue thriving inside the paint?