OAKLAND, Calif. — The Thunder is catching a break heading into tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors. Guards Marco Belinelli (knee) and C.J. Watson (toe) and forward Brandan Wright (shoulder) are all out with injuries. Guard Monta Ellis, who hasn’t played all season, is close to returning but will not play tonight.
The question is, can OKC take advantage?
The Thunder, if you remember, couldn’t do as much the first time these two teams met on Dec. 8. OKC lost 112-102 despite Golden State’s best two players, Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette, sitting out with injuries. And while the aforementioned list of names might not sound intimidating, it was in that game that Belinelli, Watson and Wright combined for 38 points, nine rebounds and four steals and helped deal the Thunder what was then its worst loss of the season.
Watson scored 16 and Wright had 13 points in the Thunder’s 107-100 win on New Year’s Eve, so it helps the Thunder not having those guys in the lineup.
But Jackson and Maggette are both in the lineup, giving the Warriors a solid three-pronged attack when you include Jamal Crawford.
A few notes…….
* Expect the same starting unit for the Thunder — Russell Westbrook, Desmond Mason, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Nick Collison.
* Joe Smith is out with a knee injury.
* The Thunder is trying to become a good road team. OKC played well in its last two away from the Ford Center at Chicago and at New Jersey and look to build on that success tonight.
* Keep an eye on Durant. He’s coming off back-to-back 30-point games and is averaging 33 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and 2.5 blocks in two games against Golden State this season. (He averaged 23 points 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 blocked shots in three games against the Warriors as a rookie last year.)
* Interesting perspective from Warriors assistant coach Keith Smart breaking down the Thunder here.
* The Warriors rank second in the league in scoring at 107 points per game. Golden State, however, allows a league-worst 112 points per contest.
* Golden State should be well-rested. Tonight’s game is the fifth in a season-long, seven-game home stand for the Warriors.
* The Warriors have won two straight after losing six of their past seven games.