Thunder at Warriors NBA Prediction for October 16
Finally, the NBA has returned. After the mayhem of free agency and the unpredictability of the draft, we have regular season NBA basketball to look forward to here tonight. We have a hefty 11-game slate set for Wednesday, but the league decided to give us a nice 2-game appetizer to open things up on Tuesday. The Philadelphia 76ers will travel to Boston to take on the Eastern Conference-favorite Celtics, while the nightcap features the Oklahoma City Thunder traveling to Cali to take on the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
First, a few injury situations to monitor. The Warriors will enter their title defense season largely healthy, though Draymond Green is still working with a sore knee. He played in their last preseason game, but we can expect Green to be on something of a minutes restriction early in the season. We know the newest Warrior, DeMarcus Cousins, is still sidelined thanks to the ruptured Achilles he suffered about halfway through last season. He’s not expected to be ready for another couple of months, so the Dubs in the meantime will run a combination of Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Damian Jones at center. Jones is expected to draw the start on opening night. Shaun Livingston is expected to play through his foot problem after participating in shootaround on Tuesday.
The big injury news in this one comes on the Oklahoma City side. The Thunder announced Tuesday afternoon that former MVP Russell Westbrook will miss the opener after undergoing an offseason procedure on his knee. Obviously, that’s a huge deal. The Warriors opened as 11-point favorites, but the line jumped to Golden State -13 1/2 after OKC announced the Westbrook news.
Steven Adams, the team’s starting center, is also said to be a game-time decision with a sore back. The Thunder said there will be an update on his status later in the day, but as of this writing he remains questionable. Andre Roberson will be out for a while after suffering a setback while rehabbing his injury, while Terrance Ferguson, Abdel Nader and Alex Abrines are each probable to suit up and play.
The Thunder have a few new faces in the fold this season. One of said new faces in Dennis Schroder, who came over from the Hawks in an offseason trade. Schroder served as the Thunder’s starting point guard during the preseason in Westbrook’s stead, so we have no reason to believe he won’t reprise that role tonight. Patrick Patterson is likely to enter the starting lineup in place of the departed Carmelo Anthony, while Nerlens Noel will start at the center spot if Adams is a no-go. There is quite a bit still left to be determined with OKC ahead of tipoff.
13 1/2 points is a massive spread by NBA standards, but there is plenty of merit there. The Warriors are entering the season as defending champions largely healthy, while the Thunder are going on the road into a hostile environment short-handed. Without Roberson the Thunder don’t really have any defenders capable of making life difficult for Kevin Durant, who will presumably torch them. Durant averaged 29 points per game in 4 meetings against his former team last season.
Without Westbrook in the fold, I imagine the offense will funnel heavily through Paul George. George, who inked a massive deal to stay in Oklahoma City over the summer, will probably be tasked with trying to keep the Thunder afloat in this one. Expect him to take plenty of shots. Last season, George had a healthy usage rate nearing 28 percent while sharing the floor with both Westbrook and Anthony. When both players were off the floor, however, PG-13 started chucking. George had a usage rate of 40.6 percent in over 500 minutes without Westbrook and Anthony out there with him.
Schroder is another high-usage player, so I’d expect him to get a fair number of shots out there as the presumptive No. 2 option offensively.
We know the deal with Golden State by now. The Warriors are going to get out and run while taking as many 3-pointers as possible. This team won a title with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson as its top offensive options. Adding Durant was merely a luxury, yet he has found a way to blend in seamlessly in his 2 years since leaving the Thunder. Durant will always say games against his old club aren’t any different than any other game, but you know that isn’t true. You can be sure Durant takes a little extra pleasure in sticking it to the franchise that drafted him.
The Warriors lost on ring night last year against the Rockets, but I’m definitely not expecting a repeat performance. This Thunder team isn’t nearly as talented as last year’s Rockets were, and Westbrook’s absence may mean this game will be out of hand by halftime. Things can always get tricky when reserves are in there to play out the string in the late stages, but this could be a serious shellacking tonight. I was more comfortable taking the Warriors to cover the spread when it was down at 11 points, but I’ll stick with it. Golden State is always a candidate to be on the right end of a blowout, and I think we see just that tonight.
Take the Warriors to cover the 13 1/2-point spread in the season opener.
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