Golden State Warriors (10-23) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (THREE AND FREAKING TWENTY NINE)
Wednesday, December 31
Oklahoma City, OK
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)
View from the other side: Golden State of Mind
More than anything, tonight is about overcoming a mental block. The Warriors aren't necessarily more talented than Oklahoma City, but OKC can't seem to shake that its supposed to lose. And the Thunder plays like it. It's obvious; especially in the fourth quarter. If the Thunder's winning late, they played scared. If they're trailing, they play careless.
Golden State has been decent at home (6-7) but awful on the road (4-16). The last time OKC and Golden State locked up, all signs pointed to a Thunder victory until the ball was actually tipped. Golden State was playing without any of its most major stars and with guys that have seen the court as much as Mo Sene and they still beat OKC by 10 and led virtually the entire game. The only good thing to come from that pathetic night was Kevin Durant's 41 and the light show he put on in the final two minutes. But that game was easily the most frustrating of the year.
You'd think the Thunder would come out and look to get revenge. You'd think. But sometimes I wonder if they've accepted the fact that they stink and are just waiting for April 15 -- the last day of the season. So you have to toss all expectations out the window. If this group had finished and won a few games they should have (Memphis, Atlanta, LA Clippers, Minnesota), I'd be calling victory tonight. But since that just hasn't happened, I'm trying to picture 3-30 and convince myself it isn't at bad as it looks.
I really don't know why you want a team to win other than to just give you reason to care. As everybody says, you can't crown a winner before the game starts. Who knows what can happen? But in OKC's case, most times, we all know what will happen before the tip. And so does the team. And that's the problem. One team doesn't expect to win. The other thinks, "We better not effing lose to those jokes." That makes for one squad trying harder than they should against a 3-29 team and the other creating new ways to lose.
This isn't one of those, play-tough-hang-in-there-stay-close-and-give-yourself-a-chance games. It should be (but won't be) the type of game you win. The Warriors stink on the road, play bad defense and are really, really average. But I thought the same thing in Washington last week. And the same thing against the Clippers. And the same thing against the Grizzlies. And the same thing... you get the point.
It would be really nice to have Nenad Krstic tonight because, well, OKC needs everything it can get. But he won't be in uniform as he waits on his work visa to get finalized. That sucks. Let's just hope Kevin Durant follows up on Ziller's prediction and goes for 50. KD played poorly against Phoenix and typically he follows a bad one with a really, really good one. And if Russell Westbrook can do half of what he did against the Suns and Jeff Green chips in another solid performance, the Thunder could have a fighting chance. Look at me, I sound like Dan Shaughnessy with all these "ifs". But it is the truth -- OKC just can't seem to get all three clicking together. In the Thunder's three wins Durant, Green and Westbrook have combined for 58 percent of OKC's points. Sure, there has been losses where all three played well, but OKC has to have everybody clicking in order to win. And the those three are the most important parts.
I'm trying to go into this game with no expectations, or in other words, with the full expectation of a loss. But for some reason this one has the feeling of the Raptors game a little. Except that Golden State hasn't gotten a coach fired and completely quit on the new guy. But a below average team that's bad on the road is coming in and the Thunder's just due. They are. But again, no expectations other than the obvious ones, but I have that sneaking suspicion OKC could surprise. (Translation: I'd love to make a win prediction for the Thunder but I obviously realize how futile and borderline psycho that is, so in order to not sound like a loon, I'm pulling a Lee Corso and tossing out a butt-covering "Closer than the experts think" call so I can kind of get the best of both worlds.)