The Golden State Warriors have become more competitive of late whiel still implementing a fun, up-tempo offense they’ve been known for over the last 20-plus years. The Oklahoma City Thunder also likes to run, and it has been running teams out of the gym while playing decent defense to keep teams at bay. These two have played two high-scoring games this year, and the Warriors and Thunder will renew acquaintances Friday night in Oklahoma. Here is a preview on the game, plus my NBA picks for it.
Golden State Warriors (11-15) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (22-7), 8 p.m. ET
The Warriors saw their three-game winning streak game to an end Wednesday night at home, falling 93-91 against Portland. However, Golden State had beaten Houston and Denver in recent days, and played the Thunder to within three points at home just before the streak. Golden State ranks fourth in the league in scoring (99.1 ppg), but is among the five worst defensive teams (100.2 ppg), so it appears it will have to outscore teams to win. Five players score in double figures, but the team has raised its level of play of later alongside the recent rise of David Lee, who had 29 points and 11 rebounds vs. Portland and averages 19.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He likely will need a great game Friday to keep Golden State in reach of an upset of Oklahoma City.
The Thunder, relative to its hot start, is sort of stumbling along, losing 96-95 at Houston Wednesday night to split its last four games. However, the Thunder has not stumbled much at home, posting a 10-1 mark on its home court, winning the last seven since a 103-93 loss to Portland. In two games in Oakland, the Thunder had no trouble with its third-ranked offense (103.1 ppg), scoring 120 and 119 in the two wins. This is still a three-man perimeter show, led by Kevin Durant (27.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg), Russell Westbrook (22.8 ppg, 5.5 apg) and reserve guard James Harden (16.8 ppg, 3.5 apg).
The latest NBA odds list the Thunder as 10-point favorites, while the total sits at 208. Since David Lee has stepped up and played well the last few games, the Warriors have pulled off fa couple of nice wins and have seriously challenged good teams like Oklahoma City and Portland – the last two losses by a combined five points. Oklahoma City is a perimeter-oriented team with not much of an inside threat, so teams with a presence can stay close and have a chance. If Lee has a strong game and demands the ball inside, he alone could control tempo and keep OKC around 100-105 rather than 115-120 points, which just might be the secret to winning this track meet. Golden State has been better of late, but the Thunder is at home and won’t take the Warriors lightly. OKC should win, but it may not be very lopsided – and should be entertaining for those who like full-court basketball.
Final Score Prediction: Thunder 105, Warriors 96