Warriors reject Thunder once again

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – Golden State’s Klay Thompson loves playing in Oklahoma City. Thunder fans remember all the way back to Game 6 of last season’s Western Conference Finals when he single-handily sunk the home team with a barrage of 3-pointers.

Thompson had a de ja vu type performance Monday night as the Warriors rolled to an 111-95 victory over the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Thompson poured in 34 points on 12 of 21 shooting. That included knocking in 7 of his 15 shots from 3-point range.

I don’t think it’s anything particular,” Thompson said. “I’ve been playing well the last few games. Got a lot of great looks today. It’s as simple as knocking them down.”

The Warriors have snow wept the season series with the Thunder 4-0. Even more impressive, they have won each by an average of more than 20 points.

Steph Curry also buried seven 3-pointers on his way to 23 points for the Warriors. Javale McGee posted 10 points and four blocked shots as the Warriors raised their record to 56-14.

To go on the road in a tough environment and play the way we played, it’s good for us,” Golden State’s Draymond Green said.

Oklahoma City’s Victor Oladipo scored a team-high 17 points. Russell Westbrook had a subpar night for the MVP candidate. He was held to 15 points on 4 of 16 shooting to go with eight rebounds and eight assists. Enes Kanter came off the bench to score 11 points and Taj Gibson added 10 as the Thunder dropped to 40-30 and ends a five-game win streak.

Just one of those nights, Westbrook said. “Shots didn’t fall. They made shots as well. A few mishaps defensively. But we’ll be all right.”
Curry had his shot falling from the outset. With Westbrook guarding him, he dropped 11 points in the first quarter.
Conversely, Westbrook started the night shooting 1 of 6 from the field. Even though he had four assists in the quarter, his mindset was to attack and get his offense going. That seemed to fall right into the Warriors’ game plan.
While Golden State was far from at its best offensively, defensively it was able to take the Thunder out of their game and frustrate Oklahoma City.
Late in the second quarter, Westbrook and Curry got into a shoving match and the rest of the players on the floor got into the action as the teams had to be separated.

“Ain’t nothing going through my mind but to protect my teammates,” Westbrook said. “That’s what was going through my mind.”
Technical fouls were called on Westbrook, Curry, Draymond Green and Oklahoma City’s Semaj Christon before the teams had a jump-ball situation.
The Warriors won the tap and Thompson snagged the loose ball. He zipped it up to a wide open Curry, who drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer. As soon as it went through the net, he sprinted off the court with Golden State leading 59-39.

“I used to play quarterback,” Thompson quipped. “Don’t underestimate my arm. It was kind of a lucky pass. Going up 20, it was demoralizing to the other team.”
Led by Westbrook and Oladipo, Oklahoma went on a 13-5 run to start the second half. It looked like the Thunder were back in the game.

“We knew it was coming,” Kerr said. “We’re on their home floor. Russell did not have a great first half. We knew he would come out attacking. He attacked the rim a couple of times. We just weathered the storm.”
It was McGee who turned the tide with his work on the offensive glass. While he didn’t pull down the rebound, he was able to tip the loose balls out to Thompson, who made the Thunder pay with several shots from behind the arc.
Those plays broke Oklahoma City and they were unable to make a run the rest of the night. Westbrook stayed on the bench in the fourth.

I am pleased with the way we played overall,” Kerr said. “Defense was solid. I thought JaVale McGee came in and had a huge impact. Getting his hands on a lot of rebounds, deflections. He just got his hand on the ball and created extra deflections for us. Obviously, we had Steph and Klay going from 3-point land.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Thunder get one more shot at Warriors

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — The last time Golden State paid Oklahoma City a visit, it was the biggest spectacle of the NBA season. With Kevin Durant making his first trip to Oklahoma City in a visitor’s uniform, it spawned cupcake chants that rang throughout the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But the one indelible image that came out of the Feb. 11 confrontation was Durant standing on one side of half court going back and forth with his former teammate Russell Westbrook, who was yelling, “I’m coming. I’m coming” and Enes Kanter pats him on the chest.
It was the most exciting moment of what ended up being another blowout win by the Warriors over the Thunder. However, when Oklahoma City (40-29) hosts Golden State (55-14) Monday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, both teams will look drastically different than their previous confrontations. But that hasn’t changed the intensity of the contest.
“The most important thing is not worry about them,” Kanter said. “Just worry about us. If we play our game, then we’re going to be fine.”
For the Warriors, they will be without Durant, who torched his former team in each of their three wins. He is still recovering from a grade 2 MCL sprain and tibial bone bruise that has sidelined him since Feb. 28.
However, Durant will be in the building as he makes his first road trip since his surgery.
The Warriors picked up Matt Barnes to replace Durant. He has started to fit in to what the squad is doing as of late.
“He’s not a great shooter but he’s a guy who you have to honor if you’re out there defending him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told the Associated Press. “He doesn’t have to make shots to be effective. He does everything else so well. He’s already picked up our offense, like that. He’s been a tremendous addition.”
What hasn’t changed is how dangerous Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are for the Warriors. They are the core that guided the Golden State back from a 3-1 deficit during last season’s Western Conference Finals. So the Thunder players and coaches know exactly what they are capable of, even without Durant.
“They are not much different,” Thunder center Steven Adams said. “They still pose a threat. They are really unselfish with the ball.”
Oklahoma City has also made wholesale changes since their Feb. 11 defeat. Almost two weeks later, the Thunder added Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.
This will also be the first time against Golden State that Oklahoma City will be healthy. Kanter missed the last game with a fractured arm while Adams sat out the game before with a concussion.
Having both bigs in the lineup along with Gibson could provide the Thunder with a physical advantage they will look to use.
“When you re-post, the defender is relaxing,” Kanter said. “That’s when the bigs should bury their defender. My teammates are doing a really good job of reading that.”
But it’s defense Oklahoma City will need to make sure is on a high level. Golden State is still the No. 1 scoring team in the league.
However, one of the least noticed elements of the Thunder during its recent win streak is the defensive improvements. They are holding teams to 99 points a game over their last five contests.
On the season, the Thunder have been one of the best in not allowing opponents to take 3-pointers. They are fourth in the NBA with 24.4 3-pointers attempted by opponents. However, during their current win streak, they brought those numbers down to 20.8.
Golden State takes 31 per game.
Oklahoma City have also cut down the amount assists they allow during games. They went from 21 to 16 over the past five contents.
“We’ve made strides in a positive direction,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “There are more to be made. The only thing you can do is come in here intentionally every single day and be committed and focused on how you want to play offensively and defensively and be committed to doing those things and not get to a place of complacency.”
NOTES: A report came out late Sunday night detailing from anonymous sources how upset the Golden State organization is with Oklahoma City over its treatment of Kevin Durant during the Feb. 11 matchup. According to the report, the team sources blamed Thunder officials for letting the fan base get riled up and treat Durant badly.
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Thunder dismantle Kings

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — On March 7, Russell Westbrook scored a career-high 58 points for Oklahoma City. It was one of the best individual performances the NBA has seen this season.

However, the Thunder lost that game as the team stretched its skid to four games at that point.

Since then, the Thunder seemed to have turned the corner. While Westbrook is still the focal point, his teammates have found their roles and their contributions have increased.

That was the case in Oklahoma City’s 110-94 victory over Sacramento on Saturday afternoon at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“We know we have the talent to score the ball inside or outside,” Thunder center Enes Kanter said. “We just need to focus on the defensive end, play with an edge.”

Westbrook led all scorers with 28 points, making 9 of 20 shots from the field, and had eight rebounds and 10 assists. He was two rebounds away from his 36th triple-double of the season.

Westbrook was asked if triple-doubles ever cross his mind late in games when he’s close.

“I just play bro,” Westbrook said.

Doug McDermott came off the Thunder bench to score 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor. Steven Adams added 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Enes Kanter contributed 14 points as Oklahoma City won its fifth straight game and improved to 40-29. The Thunder are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for fifth in the Western Conference.

Georgios Papagiannis led the Kings with 14 points and 11 boards.

“I’m in a rhythm right now. I started with 11 minutes and then started to get more, so I am just starting to get used to it because most of the time I have been playing for the D-League and when I got here the last few games it was a lot different,” Papagiannis said.

“So just every game and every practice I am trying to get used to the players because most of the time I had been in Reno and everything works right now.”

Skal Labissiere added 13 points and Buddy Hield scored 11 points as the Kings dropped to 27-42.

In the opening minutes of the game, the Kings looked like they might give the Thunder a fight. Led by Darren Collison, Sacramento opened a quick 10-9 advantage.

That was the last bit of hope the Kings had. The Thunder outscored them 20-9 the rest of the quarter to grab a double-digit lead.

The Oklahoma City bench continued to cause problems for Sacramento. Kanter wore out the lighter Willie Cauley-Stein in in the paint as he racked up 10 first-half points.

While Westbrook didn’t have to explode for big numbers, he made enough signature plays to leave an imprint on the game. That include draining a jumper in the final seconds of the first half to give Oklahoma City a 63-41 halftime lead.

Sacramento could never get its offense rolling. Oklahoma City’s Andre Roberson played suffocating defense on Hield. Meanwhile, Cauley-Stein, Collison and Labissiere couldn’t buy a basket.

“It’s hard to come back on a great team like that,” Hield said. “They have been playing together for a while, Russ is always great and then add the pieces of Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, who are playing really well.

“We are a young team, so we just have to keep learning from these losses and keep getting better.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

 

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