Programming note: The Santa Cruz Warriors will take on the Oklahoma City Blue in Oracle Arena Sunday at 6:00 p.m. on CSN Bay Area.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Meanwhile, there is a basketball game to be played.
Somewhere beneath the thick layer of hype devoted to Kevin Durant’s return to Oklahoma City, as well as his relationship with former Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook, we find a battle between teams destined for the playoffs.
The Warriors on Saturday night will make their first trip to Chesapeake Energy Arena since winning Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals to send the series back to Oakland, where they closed out the Thunder.
In winning 14 of their last 16 games, the Warriors (45-8) have scored fewer than 110 points only three times. They’ve built a four-game lead on the rest of the NBA, and are trying to wrap up the No. 1 seed for the postseason.
The Thunder (31-23) are in the No. 7 spot, with designs on getting into the top four.
Warriors by 7
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Klay Thompson vs. Russell Westbrook: With all due respect to the Durant-Westbrook dynamic, Thompson is the man tasked with trying to contain the irresistible force that is Westbrook. No team in the NBA is more reliant on one man than are the Thunder, as Westbrook’s 26 triple-doubles are evidence of his value.
Warriors: C Zaza Pachulia (R rotator cuff strain) and F/C David West (L thumb fracture) are listed as out.
Thunder: C Enes Kanter (R ulna fracture).
Warriors: 8-2. Thunder: 6-4.
The Warriors won the first two meetings this season, both at Oracle Arena, and have won five in a row and eight of the last nine. They have lost 11 of the last 13 regular-season meetings in OKC.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
THE NOISE: The general expectation is that Durant will be sprinkled with cheers amid a storm of boos. In any case, it will be noisy in “Loud City.” Though the Warriors are accustomed to deafening cacophony, this comes with plenty of emotion behind the roar.
KD’S REACTION: Durant admittedly will feel some emotions in returning to the place he called home for eight seasons. He torched the Thunder in two games in Oakland, including a season-high 40 points on Jan. 18. This will be different. How will he respond to being the enemy in a place he knows so well?
SPLASH VS. SLASH: With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, aka the Splash Brothers, leading the way, the Warriors lead the league in 3-point makes and percentage. OKC, which ranks 29th in in percentage from deep, gets most of its offensive thrust from guards Victor Oladipo and Westbrook, who specialize in attacking the paint.