For the final time in the regular season, the Thunder will square off with the Golden State Warriors on Monday night at 7 p.m.
Here are a few things to know about the rivalry game:
Much of the conversation surrounding the first three matchups centered around Kevin Durant playing against the franchise that raised him, but that won’t be the case on Monday. Durant suffered an MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise in his left knee and isn’t expected to return until late in the regular season at the earliest.
Therefore, it won’t be the return of KD, but instead the return of the team who stole him away.
OKC fans won’t be able to cheer against the player who broke their hearts, but those inside of The Peake will have no problem choosing a villain. Whether its Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia, or even Steph Curry, Thunder fans will have a wide selection when it comes to deciding who to boo.
With 13 games left in the regular season, Russell Westbrook still has time to put some finishing touches on his case to win the crown of NBA MVP. Even though it feels as if James Harden has the slight edge when it comes to naming a favorite, Monday night presents a good opportunity for Westbrook to make a statement, in more than one way.
Not only will this be an opportunity for the Thunder to show which team stacks up better without the services of an all-generational player in Durant, but Westbrook could have his “Heisman Moment” in front of a National TV audience.
In college football, the winner of the Heisman Trophy normally has a game or performance that set him above the rest of the pack, and if Westbrook orchestrated a win over Golden State and snatched a sliver of revenge against the team who knocked him out of last year’s playoffs and took away his comrade, the storyline alone could be enough to propel him to the top.
Both Teams Are Rolling
The Thunder enter Monday’s matchup riding a five-game winning streak while the Warriors are winners of three in a row.
OKC is playing some of its best basketball as of late as new pieces such as Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott are becoming more comfortable with their new teammates. The Thunder isn’t just winning games, but its doing so in blowout fashion. OKC has beaten its last five opponents by an average of 14.6 points per game, with three wins coming against teams projected to have homecourt in the first round of the playoffs (Raptors, Jazz, Spurs).
Golden State had lost four of their first six games after Durant went down, but has taken care of business in its last three home games. After a narrow comeback win over the 76ers on Curry’s birthday, the Warriors beat the Magic by 30 points before drumming the Bucks by 25 points on Saturday night.