Jan 25 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) runs up court during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Hornets at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Thunder (15-3) at Warriors (6-11), 10:30 p.m. EST tip

Thunder (3-game winning streak)
105.0 Offensive Efficiency (5th)
98.1 Defensive Efficiency (12th)
+6.9 Differential (5th)
94.6 Pace (12th)

Warriors (1-game winning streak)
101.0 Offensive Efficiency (12th)
103.7 Defensive Efficiency (26th)
-2.7 Differential (22nd)
94.1 Pace (15th)

Oklahoma City will be back on the road tonight at Golden State which isn’t an easy place to win. The Warriors beat Portland in their last game at home behind a strong performance by Stephen Curry who looks to be back to full strength after missing nine games with an injury. Under new coach Mark Jackson the Warriors play a different style this year not running as much and trying to focus more at the defensive end. The Thunder actually run more than the Warriors this season and are the best in the league when they do so. Golden State has no one they can throw at Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook. Expect big games from them and hopefully Durant can get back on track from three-point land in this game. I also would expect James Harden to continue his strong play even on the road.

Thunder keys to the game

1. Don’t lose Steph Curry

Curry is one of the smartest players in the league and is coming off a hot shooting night vs. Portland. Shooters tend to carry over good shooting nights between games so expect Curry to be looking for his shot a lot tonight vs. the Thunder. The backcourt combo of Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha should be able to contain Curry as long as they don’t gamble too much. Monta Ellis has improved his passing this year and is more willing to dish out to an open Curry. The Warriors are currently the best spot-up shooting team in the league this year. Along with Curry, Brandon Rush (1.40 PPP) and Klay Thompson (1.39 PPP) have been very efficient this season as spot-up shooters.

2. Take away the roll man

The Warriors like to run a lot of pick-and-roll (17.85% of their offense) and are at their best when the ball is dished to the roll man, David Lee in particular. Lee is scoring 1.34 PPP in the pick-and-roll this season but is just 0.74 on post-ups. That means rotating to take away Lee and forcing him to slow down and put his back to the basket is the best way to contain him. Lee will likely shy away from looking to score in the post too with the presence of Serge Ibaka (3rd in the NBA in blocks). Taking away the roll man and forcing Ellis to shoot in these situations is a good idea. Ellis is a prolific scored but just 0.65 PPP in the pick-and-roll and 0.68 on isolation plays.

3. Be patient on offense

It’s not hard to get good looks on offense against the Warriors. They 22nd in the NBA in overall defense in terms of PPP and the Thunder have an advantage in almost every facet of the game. There’s no reason to settle for bad shots in a game like this, that’s one of the only ways the Warriors can beat you. Westbrook has been posting up more lately and look for him to continue that this game against the smaller guards of Golden State. The combination of Westbrook and Durant in the pick-and-roll should be deadly too. Harden should also have a big game picking apart the Warriors defense in the pick-and-roll.

Prediction: Oklahoma City wins 108-101.

Tags: James Harden Kevin Durant Russell Westbrook Serge Ibaka

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