Thunder-Warriors: What to watch for

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Thunder-Warriors: What to watch for

For the second time in 11 days, the Warriors take on theOklahoma City Thunder at Oracle Arena. The last time these teams played onJan. 27 the Warriors hung in for a while but OKC turned it on in the fourthquarter for the victory.The Warriors are coming off a disappointing overtime loss toSacramento on Saturday, while the Thunder turned back the Trail Blazers inPortland on Monday night.Here are some things to watch for:
Contain the stars: After the Thunders120-109 win over the Warriors on the 27th, Golden State coach MarkJackson expressed disappointment in his teams effort level, particularly thebig men.But it was Oklahoma Citys two stars Kevin Durant andRussell Westbrook who were most responsible for that victory. Durant had 37points and Westbrook 28 points and 11 assists. Each of those players shot 50percent from the floor, too, which meant they were pretty darnefficient.If the Warriors hope to knock off the Thunder on Tuesday,theyre going to need to turn both Durant and Westbrook into volumeshooters.Limit turnovers: The bottom line is thebackcourt of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis have to be a lot better when itcomes to taking care of the ball. That backcourt tandem averages 13 assists andseven turnovers per game between them, and thats not good enough.In the last meeting between the teams, Curry and Ellis combined for 12 turnovers and seven assists.Rebound better: In the teams lastmeeting, OKC outrebounded the Warriors 53-34.In that game, Warriors center Andris Biedrins played just 10minutes and grabbed one rebound. Still, Biedrins is the best Warrior when itcomes to rebounds per minute and it only makes sense for Biedrins to play moreagainst Oklahoma City on Tuesday if rebounding is an issue again.Response from starters: Jackson has beencritical of his starters in recent days and in two of the last three games heallowed the substitutes to finish up games.STEINMETZ: Warriors' second unit, Mark Jackson both defensive
Jackson is clearly looking for more energy from that firstunit, and with the Thunder having played Monday night in Portland it shouldntbe hard to tell if the starters deliver for him.

Durant building 'Thunder Stopper' reputation after 40-point effort

Durant building 'Thunder Stopper' reputation after 40-point effort

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant, Thunder Stopper? With a second consecutive magnificent performance in decisive wins over his former Oklahoma City teammates, Durant may be adding a nickname.

Durant on Wednesday night posted his first 40-point game as a Warrior, carrying them to a 121-100 win over the Thunder at Oracle Arena.

He has scored 79 points in two games against OKC, taking only 40 shots to ring up such an impressive total. He was 13-of-16 Wednesday night and 15-of-24 in scoring 39 points in a 122-96 win on Nov. 3 at Oracle.

Though Durant downplayed his production, his coach and teammates were not surprised he has been so good against the team with which he spent nine seasons.

“It’s still kind of fresh, but we can’t deny the history of him with OKC,” Stephen Curry said.

“Every player in the NBA wants to play well against his old team,” coach Steve Kerr said. “For most guys, you feel that extra juice when you play against a team that you played on.”

Durant not only finished with a season-high point total but also added a team-best 12 rebounds, along with four assists and three blocks. He practically stamped his signature on the game.

“My teammates are doing a good job of freeing me up,” said Durant, who drilled 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. “I put the work in and prepared myself for every game. I just happened to knock them down.”

It’s not just that Durant was facing his former team, though. He was, once again, on opposite sides from longtime teammate and erstwhile friend Russell Westbrook. The two have not had much to say to each other since Durant’s decision last July to leave OKC and sign with the Warriors.

Little changed Wednesday night, though the two had a brief exchange in the second half, as Durant headed to the line to shoot a pair of free throws.

Asked if the two have talked, Westbrook said, “Nah,” despite the brief dialogue.

Durant carefully avoided saying anything remotely inflammatory about Westbrook or any of his former teammates.

“It’s good to see everybody,” he said. “Once the ball is tipped, you’re just playing. You’re just hooping. It’s as simple as that. But it’s definitely good to see everybody.”

Durant’s lone lowlight came when he blew a dunk with 1:45 left in the first half, taking flight about 10 feet from the basket and slamming the ball off the back of the rim and nearly to halfcourt.

“I thought I made it,” Durant said, “and then I heard the crowd.

“I was kind of upset. I tried to dunk it too hard, I think. I might have jumped from a little too far out. As I was close to the rim, I felt myself coming down a little earlier than usual.

“But, yeah, I should have made that one. That would have brought the crowd to its feet. But, hopefully, I’ll get another opportunity.”

The crowd was on its feet plenty, as was the case during Durant’s previous display against OKC. The Thunder won’t be back to Oakland this season.

Durant will have another chance to go after his former team and burnish his credentials as a Thunder Stopper when the teams meet on Feb. 11 in Oklahoma City.

 

Westbrook on Pachulia's flagrant foul: 'I'm going to get his ass back'

Westbrook on Pachulia's flagrant foul: 'I'm going to get his ass back'

Late in the first half of Wednesday's game between the Warriors and Thunder, Russell Westbrook collided with Zaza Pachulia.

Pachulia appeared to hit Westbrook in the face. The Thunder guard hit the floor and rolled around for a few seconds before bouncing back up.

The officials reviewed the play and assessed a flagrant foul on Pachulia.

After the game, Westbrook was asked about his vantage point on the play and he didn't hold back.

"I don't know. He me kind of hard. But it's alright. I'm going to get his ass back. Straight up," Westbrook said.

He was then asked if he noticed Pachulai standing over him.

"I didn't see that until just now, but I don't play that game. I'm going to get his ass back. Whenever that is, I don't know, but I don't play that game," Westbrook said.

Westbrook's comments were brought to Pachulia after the game and the Warriors center offered this rebuttal.

"I can't worry about that kind of comment. I'm part of an amazing team and we have a great goal of winning a championship. I'm all in with my energy, 100 percent. So we're thinking about this team, staying healthy, moving forward, getting better, getting to the playoffs and playing for the championship. That's what I'm thinking about. I'm not thinking about those kind of comments. That team is not there, so they may be thinking about other stuff like getting me back. Okay, you can get me back. But again, it's my 14th year, we all know what my game is, to play hard, not dirty. If it was a hard foul, it was a hard foul. It wasn't dirty at all. I'm not worried about this," Pachulia told the media.

Westbrook will get that chance on February 11 when the Warriors travel to Oklahoma City.