The Warriors make their second trip of the season to Oklahoma City, and though once again there will be hatred in the air, the storyline this time will be very different.
Whereas that Feb. 11 game featured the return of Kevin Durant to the city he represented for eight years, the matchup Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena pits reigning MVP Stephen Curry against rampaging MVP candidate Russell Westbrook.
Though Durant is injured and unavailable, the animosity is starting to feel personal between these teams, and certainly between some of the individuals.
The Warriors (55-14) are trying to win four straight for the first time this month, while OKC (40-29) has won five in a row, the longest active streak in the NBA.
Warriors by 1
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Klay Thompson vs. Russell Westbrook. It’s a fairly simple equation to beating the Thunder, and it starts with limiting the damage done by Westbrook. OKC is 12-23 when he does not post a triple-double. The problem, however, is that he has 34. The Warriors will alternate defenders on Westbrook -- it takes a team to have any hope of containing him -- but Thompson, four inches taller, will get the bulk of the work.
Warriors: F Kevin Durant (L knee sprain, tibial bone bruise) is listed as out. C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League.
Thunder: No injuries listed.
Warriors: 5-5. Thunder: 6-4.
The Warriors won the first three meetings this season, the last six in the regular season and nine of the last 10. The teams met in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, won by the Warriors in seven games.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
THE 3-BALL GAME: Behind Klay Thompson and Curry, the Warriors are one of best, ranking third in shooting percentage (38.1) beyond the arc. The Thunder (33.0) are among the worst, ranking 28th. The Warriors will work to prevent penetration -- OKC leads the league in paint points -- and force jump shots.
THE GLASS WAR: OKC is a proficient rebounding team, particularly good on the offensive glass. With the Thunder ranking fifth in second-chance points, the Warriors will have to emphasize such fundamentals as blocking out -- something they sometimes neglect.
THE TURNOVER BATTLE: Though the Warriors are susceptible to turnovers, they generally have gotten better in recent months. OKC, however, is in an entirely different league, ranking 27th in assist-to-turnover ratio. The only teams worse are the Suns, Nets and Lakers. This is a formula that could allow the Warriors to trigger their transition offense.