Oklahoma City Thunder Game Previews: October 31 - November 6


If you missed last week's regular-season action for the Oklahoma City Thunder here is a quick recap.

Looking to continue rolling along and build upon their 3-0 record, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be tested against true playoff contenders with a west coast road trip against both the LA Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. The trip starts in Los Angeles as the Thunder take on Oklahoma native Blake Griffin and his Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are considered the third best team in the Western Conference, behind San Antonio and Golden State, and this Wednesday night tilt will be a good test for the Thunder. After that, the Thunder immediately head to the bay to play former Thunder small forward Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder wrap up their second week of the NBA season at home against a young up and coming Minnesota Timberwolves squad led by Karl-Anthony Towns and new Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau.

LA Clippers

Wednesday, 2 November 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Away

The Oklahoma City Thunder open up week 2 of their NBA regular season on the road against the LA Clippers (2-0, 1-0 at Home). This is the first matchup between both teams this season and looks to be a promising one as both teams have playoff aspirations towards the end of the season. The Clippers are led by a Big Three of their own with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Griffin leads the team in scoring with 22.5 points a game, Paul leads the team in assists with 7.0 per game and Jordan leads the team in rebounding with a whopping 14.0 rebounds per game.

On offense look for Victor Oladipo to have a big night as both the shooting guard and small forward position are points of weakness in the LA Clippers lineup. JJ Redick is a marksman for the Clippers but is not as strong defensively as he is offensively, so look for Oladipo and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan to exploit that. The Clippers are also a mess at the small forward position all-together so maybe Kyle Singler can finally shake off the title of Worst Player in the NBA. The Clippers are also thin at the center position so when DeAndre Jordan is resting Enes Kanter should be able to produce at a high volume for the Thunder.

The defensive side of the ball is where the Thunder will have the most trouble against the LA Clippers. Blake Griffin has evolved his game every year he has been in the NBA, and is a threat as a jump shooter and as the high flying dunker he has always been known as. Rookie big man Domantas Sabonis will have a real test against Griffin and will really have to show his worth as an NBA player. Russell Westbrook also has a major assignment against the Clippers star guard Chris Paul. Paul has the ability to create plays on a whim and can also punish defenses with his ability to move the ball as well. The Thunder's defense will again be tested by a championship caliber contender in the LA Clippers

What to Watch For:

  1. Battle of LA Guards Week 2 - Last week Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook battled against Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell and walked away victorious. Look for the former UCLA Bruin to have another battle against LA Clippers point guard Chris Paul. Paul has averages of 18.0 points, 7.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds while Westbrook has averages of 38.7 points, 11.7 Assists and 12.3 rebounds.
  2. Westbrook's Triple Double Streak - It currently sits at two games in a row and it would not be surprising that the Thunder's superstar goes for another triple double against this LA Clippers squad.
  3. Steven Adams vs DeAndre Jordan - Both big men for the Clippers and Thunder are defensive juggernauts but something has to give between the two. Whoever wins the rebounding battle between Adams and Jordan will probably walk away the victor.

Projected Starting Lineups:

LA Clippers:

  • PG - Chris Paul
  • SG - JJ Redick
  • SF - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
  • PF - Blake Griffin
  • C - DeAndre Jordan
  • Injuries - DeAndre Jordan (Thumb, Day-to-Day), Paul Pierce (Ankle, Day-to-Day), Brice Johnson (Back, Out Indefinitely)

Oklahoma City Thunder:

  • PG - Russell Westbrook
  • SG - Victor Oladipo
  • SF - Andre Roberson
  • PF - Domantas Sabonis
  • C - Steven Adams
  • Injuries - Cameron Payne (Foot, Out Indefinitely)

Golden State Warriors

Thursday, 3 November 2016 at 10:30 PM ET Away

In the second night of a back-to-back, the Oklahoma City Thunder continue their west coast road trip by heading up to the Bay Area to face former Thunder forward Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors (2-1, 0-1 Home). This matchup has been marked on everyone's calendar from the moment KD announced his decision to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State and looks to be a promising matchup with Westbrook flourishing in the spotlight and the Warriors not living up to their lofty expectations early on.

Look for all eyes to be on Thunder guard Russell Westbrook as he takes the herculean sized chip on his shoulder with him as he battles the Warriors. Of everyone in the NBA world Westbrook has been waiting for this moment the most. To finally tell Kevin Durant that the Thunder will be fine without him, that he would never take the easy way out and battle with the Thunder, and if he rises up to the moment it could be an MVP defining game for him. Or if he falls flat on his face Kevin Durant will laugh his way to the bank as he makes three-pointer after three-pointer.

Another big thing to watch on offense is after trading big man Andrew Bogut to the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, the Warriors have been horrendous at rim protection by rolling out players like Zaza Pachulia, David West and Anderson Varejao at center; all players that are way past their prime due to a combination of age and injuries. Westbrook, Oladipo, Adams and Kanter will be able to feast on this in the paint and the Thunder should exploit this weakness in order to secure the win.

On defense. the Warriors are a serious nightmare for any team, especially after they roll out their "Lineup of Death 2.0" of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. This lineup has five players who can hit from the perimeter with three proven 3-point marksmen in Durant, Thompson and Curry. But, the Thunder did expose a flaw in Version 1.0 of the lineup in the playoffs last season by going big with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter and slowing the pace down to a snail's crawl. If the Thunder want to match the Warriors they need to not play to a quick and sporadic pace and focus on not turning over the ball too many times.

What to Watch For:

  1. ?No New (Or Old) Friends - The biggest thing to watch for in the Oklahoma City Thunder's matchup against the Golden State Warriors is how Kevin Durant plays against his old team. If he flounders, he will be crucified by the media and his already paper thin skin will split in two. On the other side of things is how Russell Westbrook will respond after all the talking back and forth between him and Durant this offseason. If Westbrook flops and KD shines, it will be a rough night for Oklahoma City fans.
  2. Attacking the Paint - As mentioned before the Thunder should exploit the biggest hole in the Warriors' defense which would also create more opportunities for jump shots as well. The Thunder do create plenty of matchup problems for the Warriors with their big men so hopefully head coach Billy Donovan makes a plan to exploit it.
  3. Steven Adams and His Kiwis - In last season's playoffs, Warriors forward Draymond Green became public enemy number one in Oklahoma City after landing a swift kick on Steven Adam's manhood. Adams took it in stride but Green will be defending Adams on numerous possessions as he is Golden State's best defensive player. Hopefully he keeps his legs to himself but maybe Adams should be a little cautious.

Projected Starting Lineups:

??Golden State Warriors:

  • PG - Steph Curry
  • SG - Klay Thompson
  • SF - Kevin Durant
  • PF - Draymond Green
  • C - Zaza Pachulia
  • Injuries - Kevin Durant (Ankle, Day-to-Day), Patrick McCaw (Ankle, Day-to-Day), Damian Jones (Pectoral, Unlikely to Dress)

Oklahoma City Thunder:

  • PG - Russell Westbrook
  • SG - Victor Oladipo
  • SF - Andre Roberson
  • PF - Domantas Sabonis
  • C - Steven Adams
  • Injuries - Cameron Payne (Foot, Out Indefinitely)?

Minnesota Timberwolves

Saturday, 5 November 2016 at 06:00 PM ET Home

Finally, the Thunder close out week 2 of their NBA regular season in a Saturday Matinee home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (0-2, 0-2 Away). The young Minnesota pups of Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-AnthonyTowns coupled with star coach Tom Thibodeau has the NBA world in a tizzy as the team looks to make its leap into a possible playoff contender this season. Out of the gate though the team has showed promise but the youth of the team has also come back to haunt them, as they have blown two major leads in both of their games so far this season. The Thunder's experience will keep the young Wolves as bay, much like they did with the Lakers the week before.

On offense Steven Adams will be tested against last year's rookie of the year Karl-Anthony Towns and Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng. Towns has averaged 1.0 block a game already this season and his teammate Dieng averages a hearty 13.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game as well. As Adams grows offensively this season his first true test will be against Dieng and Towns as the aforementioned pair is a defensive dynamo. The Wolves may also put rookie Kris Dunn on Russell Westbrook at times as he has shown tons of defensive potential both in college and under Tom Thibodeau.

On defense, Steven Adams will also have his hands full defending Towns, who averages a solid 18.0 points per game this season. Andre Roberson will also have his hands full with former number one pick Andrew Wiggins who averages 27.0 points, 0.0 Assists and 4.0 rebounds so far this season. Finally, Victor Oladipo will have a tough defensive assignment with Zach Lavine who averages 20.0 points, 2.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds a game this season. Hopefully, the Thunder's experience compared to the Timberwolves youth and inexperience pay off in the long run on the defensive side of the ball.

What to Watch For:

  1. The Thunder Formula - The Minnesota Timberwolves are on a bit of a youth movement lately with their before mentioned load of talent at almost every major position. They seem to be copying a template used by the Oklahoma City Thunder long ago when they had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden. Now, only Westbrook remains. The Timberwolves will be battling against the very team they are trying to copy in plans and their youth will be put to the test against the age and experience of the Thunder.
  2. Kris Dunn's Big Assignment - Speaking of Timberwolves rookies, guard Kris Dunn has a tall order defending MVP-candidate Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is a walking triple double and an athletic freak and any person defending him, rookie or not, has a tall order against them. Dunn's ability will be put to the test against Russell Westbrook.
  3. Russell Westbrook's Triple Double Streak - It currently sits at two games in a row before their game against the Clippers and it would not be surprising that the Thunder's superstar goes for another triple double again against this young Minnesota Timberwolves squad.

Projected Starting Lineups:

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • PG - Ricky Rubio
  • SG - Zach Lavine
  • SF - Andrew Wiggins
  • PF - Karl-Anthony Towns
  • C - Gorgui Dieng
  • Injuries - Ricky Rubio (Elbow, Day-to-Day), Nikola Pekovic (Foot, Out Indefinitely)

Oklahoma City Thunder:

  •  PG - Russell Westbrook
  • SG - Victor Oladipo
  • SF - Andre Roberson
  • PF - Domantas Sabonis
  • C - Steven Adams
  • Injuries - Cameron Payne (Foot, Out Indefinitely)?
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