On Thursday night, you have a sports choice. You can watch the Atlanta Falcons take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or — and I'm just throwing this out there — you can check out Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder's first meeting with Kevin Durant and his Golden State Warriors. Either way. It's up to you.
For NBA fans, it's one of the most anticipated games of the season. Westbrook, however, told reporters after a win on Wednesday that it's just another game (via ESPN.com):
"I play every game like it's my last," Westbrook said. "I play every game the same, always. Like I've been saying for years. And regardless of who we play, I'm going to play the same way."
Sounds good, since Westbrook is always a supernatural force of basketball destruction. But what should we really expect from Thursday night? Let's break it down.
Added motivation or not, Westbrook will be awesome
I believe Westbrook when he says facing his old running mate doesn't give him any extra motivation. I don't think he needs it against the Warriors, since his real focus is Stephen Curry.
Before Westbrook can make his case as the game's best player, he has to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's the game's top point guard. At the very least, Curry stands in his way.
Plus, there's the hangover from OKC's own playoff collapse against the Warriors. Add it all up, mix in Golden State's lackluster defense so far this season, and you have the recipe for a thermonuclear detonation from Westbrook.
Getty ImagesRocky Widner
KD will start and finish aggressively, but fade in the middle
Durant should get a few early touches in the natural flow of Golden State's offense — and before the Thunder really tilt their defense in his direction. After the first few minutes, however, he'll shift gears, looking to get others involved and prove he's not detracting from the Warriors offense.
We'll all question why KD's not putting his stamp on the game, then he'll hit a pivotal shot in the fourth quarter that makes Twitter erupt in approximately 374,659 people sending the same "You the real MVP!" joke.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
The Warriors will get the win ...
They better, anyway. Bovada.com has Golden State as a 10.5-point favorite against the Thunder, and that seems about right. The Thunder simply don't have the offensive options (outside of Westbrook) to continually punish the Warriors' defensive lapses in transition.
One caveat that should scare Golden State: Oklahoma City could destroy the Warriors on the glass if Billy Donovan decides to stay big against smaller lineups. If Golden State's 3s aren't falling, an upset is a very real possibility. Either way ...
... but Westbrook will keep it interesting
The way I see this playing out: Westbrook goes off early in the fourth quarter to bring the Thunder back (and possibly even give them a late lead), but he ever so slightly runs out of steam in the closing minutes on the second night of a back-to-back. The Warriors get a few key shots to fall and secure a double-digit win after a few free throws in the final minute.
And that means ...
The Splash Bros. will steal the show
While all the attention is on the Westbrook-Durant dynamic, Curry and Klay Thompson will be content to roast the Thunder from deep. They'll be the real difference-makers in this game — assuming Draymond Green doesn't do something ridiculous, that is.