Dinero Talks: Super Bowl Weekend
February 6, 2016
By Tony Mejia
GSW-OKC tips off Super Bowl weekend
There’s a magnificent matchup set to take place the Bay Area this weekend. The main attraction calls Charlotte home.
Yes, the Super Bowl should be fun too.
Carolina Panthers superfan Stephen Curry looks to help the Warriors extend their home record to 23-0 on Saturday night as Oklahoma City visits Golden State in the first meeting between the Western Conference powers this season. Thus far, Golden State has controlled the two contests the basketball community had circled when the season began, placing coal in Cleveland’s Christmas stocking before routing the Spurs on their Jan. 25 visit to Oakland. Dating back to last season, it has won 40 consecutive home games.
Thunder covet Warriors' crown
The Thunder come in with the NBA’s third-best record, an excellent 38-13 mark that would lead the Eastern Conference but leaves them eight full games behind the incredible Warriors. Both teams are 13 games up in their respective divisions and will be heavy favorites in first-round series, but unless Golden State falls off its torrid pace and is passed by a Spurs team currently running 3.5 games behind, the earliest it will see OKC come playoffs will likely be the Western Conference finals.
That’s the macro view, but tonight is not about sending a message for a series that may or may not happen in late May, but rather about the here and now. It’s about Oklahoma City’s tendency to never back down from a fight – basketball-wise – because Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren’t only among the league’s most talented players, but also among the most competitive.
“What’s going on Saturday?” Westbrook responded when asked earlier this week if he was looking forward to this matchup.
How long have the Warriors been on your mind may have been a better question, one whose answer has to date back to late last week at the very least. That’s when Curry, in a media session himself, declared of this Super Bowl weekend: "It'll be a good 48 hours - a win and a win."
Shots fired. Just like the Panthers are rarely far from Curry’s thoughts, Golden State has certainly been on the minds of the Thunder. The Warriors reside where everyone involved with Oklahoma City envisioned they would be. The defending champions are the NBA’s biggest attraction.
After making the 2012 Finals, the Thunder were expected to become the dynasty that it now looks like Golden State is building, which makes it vital for Oklahoma City’s sake that the team is able to make additional progress over the next few months. Durant, a free agent this summer, has already been tied to D.C. and L.A., but just this week, the rumor hit that Golden State might have a chance to land him. While NBA rumors are typically just that, the product of agenda-filled conversations, the threat that Durant may leave OKC inevitably grows closer by the minute. Westbrook’s contract is up in 2017.
If they can win a championship this summer, the likelihood of either guy going anywhere decreases drastically. Fortunately, OKC is among the league’s best-run organizations and has a winning culture in place, giving them a chance to remain a power despite its small-market status. First-year head coach Billy Donovan has gotten over an early adjustment period and has presided over wins in 27 of the last 32 games, including a 12-1 run entering this one. The Thunder has overcome injuries to Durant and defensive stopper Andre Roberson, who remains out with a knee injury. GM Sam Presti has assembled an arsenal of effective big men and shooters like Anthony Morrow and Kyle Singler. There’s enough talent in place to compete for a championship, which is what the Thunder will be out to reaffirm for themselves on Saturday night.
Golden State has been installed as an 8.5-point favorite, a nod to its dominance at Oracle Arena. Despite the Warriors' perfect run, they’re just 2-4-1 in their seven 2016 home games. The Thunder have won nine of their last 11 road games, but have only covered two of those, failing to do so in eight straight.
The Thunder average 109.7 points, second in the NBA behind the Warriors, who have posted an average of 115.4. Golden State is tops in assists (29.4) and 3-point percentage (43.0). Oklahoma City ranks second in rebounding (47.8), third in field goal percentage (47.8) and third in blocks (6.8).
Curry scored 51 points in his last appearance on Wednesday, wowing the crowd in DC’s Verizon Center before he and his teammates made a stop at the White House as the last champions who will be greeted by President Barack Obama, the world’s most prolific basketball fan. Draymond Green added 12 points, 10 boards and 12 assists, Klay Thompson added 24 points and the Warriors dropped 20 3-pointers on the Wizards.
That same night, Durant scored 37 points and knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.5 second left to defeat the Magic 117-114. Westbrook added 24 points, 19 rebounds and 14 assists in a remarkable all-around effort. According to Elias, Sunday’s game will be the first in NBA history featuring two players with at least eight triple-doubles before the All-Star break.
Oddsmakers have placed the highest total of the season on this Saturday night showcase, opening it at 232. The astronomical number has been bet down to 231 at most books and can be found at 230.5 at 5Dimes. The over has prevailed in six of the last seven Thunder games and five of the last eight Warriors contests.
While Roberson remains the Thunder's lone injury concern, the Warriors are likely to be without center Festus Ezeli, who has been nursing a knee ailment.
Last year’s final meeting produced a 127-115 result on Jan. 26 in Oklahoma City. It helped the Thunder prevent a four-game sweep at the hands of Golden State. The over went 2-2. In the 2013-14 season, OKC won the season series 2-1 and all three games went over. Of course, those were Mark Jackson’s Warriors, a team that felt it was reined in a little too tightly. Steve Kerr’s group plays looser and shoots with impunity. Although they’re on a pace to threaten an NBA-record 72 wins, they’re showmen. Oracle provides the platform on which the Warriors are most comfortable, but they’ve also proven they can take their act on the road.
The presence of Durant and Westbrook ensures the Warriors will be on their game. It’s Super Saturday, a nationally-televised showcase that seemingly was created just for them despite starring LeBron James and his Cavs the first two weeks. The Bulls won the opener, while San Antonio was uncharacteristically blown out in Cleveland last week. Golden State can’t wait to take the stage.
"With Super Bowl weekend, there'll be a ton of new faces in the crowd,” Thompson said earlier this week. “We want to give them a show."
We’re counting on it.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA
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