Feb 17, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors shooting guard Monta Ellis (8) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview: Golden State Warriors

Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons.

Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Golden State Warriors Team Overview

The Warriors had a sort of transition year last season and officially ended the Monta Ellis-era, trading him to the Milwaukee Bucks and receiving Andrew Bogut in the deal.

Combine Ellis’ departure with nagging ankle injuries for Stephen Curry and the Warriors went on to finish the season with a 23-43 record in Mark Jackson’s first season as head coach.

Golden State ended up with a high draft pick and selected Harrison Barnes at No. 7 overall, a very high value pick at that spot. Barnes played two seasons at North Carolina but never seemed to meet the lofty expectations that followed him. Barnes’ game may be more suited for the NBA and there is no doubt that he has some superstar potential.

The Warriors also drafted Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green, another value pick in the second round that is expected to contribute right away. Golden State traded for Jarrett Jack and signed Carl Landry in free agency and all of a sudden look like they have a pretty decent roster.

Health is the number one concern for this team but if they can stay on the floor, playoffs seem like a real possibility. Jackson preaches defense and now with an anchor at center in Bogut, that philosophy may start to work. The Warriors will easily be able to keep scoring points even without Ellis and are a potential sleeper next season.

Last year

The Oklahoma City Thunder played Golden State three times last season and beat them every time. The Thunder averaged 116.3 points per game against the Warriors in those games.

The first meeting was in Golden State on Jan. 27. Kevin Durant had 37 points and 14 rebounds, Russell Westbrook scored 28 points to go with 11 assists and seven steals, and Serge Ibaka had 20 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes.

Dorell Wright led the Warriors with 23 while Ellis had 13 on 5-for-17 shooting. Curry was not much better with 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting.

The biggest difference was the Thunder shooting 37 free throws to just 19 for the Warriors. OKC also dominated the glass with a plus-19 advantage.

The Thunder had to come back from a fourth quarter deficit to beat the Warriors the next time, 119-116 again in Golden State on Feb. 7. Ellis scored a career-high 48 points in the game going 18-for-29 from the field. David Lee was fantastic too notching a triple-double with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

Durant had 33 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and shot 13-for-27 from the field. Westbrook had 31 points and James Harden had 19.

The Thunder played the Warriors at home in their final meeting of the season on Feb. 17 and had no trouble blowing them out 110-87. The Thunder shot 52.7 percent from the field while Golden State shot just 34.8 percent but did have 22 offensive rebounds.

Durant led the Thunder with 23 points and 10 rebounds in only 30 minutes. Westbrook had 18 and Harden had 25.

Durant would average 31.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game and shot .523 percent from the field in the three games. Westbrook averaged 25.7 points, 7.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game and shot .547 percent from the field. Harden averaged 21.0 points per game and shot .528 percent from the field.

The matchup

The Warriors had an efficient offense last season and were fifth in the NBA overall in terms of points per possession. They could put up points vs. the Thunder but not quite as efficiently as usual as the Thunder had the fifth best defense.

The Warriors were best in the league at spot-up shooting averaging 1.09 PPP. The Thunder were just 10th in the league vs. spot-up shooting plays.

The Warriors were also very good at getting out and running at 10th in the league in transition plays while the Thunder were 16th in the league defending transition plays.

Another good matchup is the Warriors pick-and-roll offense, 11th best in the league vs. the Thunder defense which was also ranked 11th in the league.

The Warriors could not get it done on defense last year, especially against the Thunder. They ranked 24th overall defensively and were 25th in the league vs. isolation plays.

The Warriors were decent defending the pick-and-roll though, ranking 13th in the NBA.

Next year

The Thunder and Warriors will play four times next season. They’ll play in OKC first on Nov. 18 then at Golden State Jan. 23. They’ll go back to OKC on Feb. 6 then end the season series in Golden State on April 11.

The Warriors are looking to stay healthy next season and by doing so should improve to at least a borderline playoff team in the West. Against the Thunder though they don’t match up very well. Durant, Westbrook and Harden all were extremely efficient against the Warriors last season, especially Durant.

With Ellis shown the door, we may see a new kind of culture in Golden State that could make them more competitive with the Thunder.

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