Emotions will be high when Warriors face Thunder
OAKLAND, Calif. — Russell Westbrook says he didn't watch Kevin Durant's debut for the Golden State Warriors.
Draymond Green assures the Warriors want to beat Durant's former team “really bad.”
The 2016 Western Conference Finals combatants haven't seen each other in more than five months and already sparks are flying in anticipation of Thursday's nationally televised game in Oakland.
The game not only will be the first between former teammates Westbrook and Durant, but also a rematch of Golden State's rally from a 3-1 deficit in last year's playoffs to deny the Thunder a spot in the NBA Finals.
“They're going to want to beat him really bad. He's going to want to beat them really bad,” Green said of the Durant and his old mates, who were formally split in July by the Warriors' two-year, $54.3 million offer to the seven-time All-Star. “In turn, we're going to want to beat them really bad because we want him to beat them really bad.
“It'll be a lot of emotions, but it'll be a fun game to play in. It's always a high-intensity game against them, and I expect nothing less.”
As expected, the matchup pits the top team in the West against one of its chief rivals.
But four games into the new-look season, it's the Thunder (4-0) that's sitting atop the Western standings, with the Warriors (3-1) a win away from evening that score.
The Thunder will be playing its second game in two nights, having been taken to the limit in an 85-83 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
Westbrook recorded a different type of double-double in the win, countering 35 points with 10 turnovers.
Shortly thereafter, he was on a plane making the 60-minute flight north.
“I play every game like it's my last,” Westbrook said of his mindset on the eve of the duel with Durant. “Regardless of who we play, I'm going to play the same way.”
Even with the World Series on a different channel, Durant assured earlier this week he'd be tuned into the Thunder on television on his night off.
“I'm definitely watching,” he said of the Warriors' night off. “The stuff that I've been through with that team and that organization, that stuff doesn't just go away.
“I've got nothing but love for everybody there. Everybody. No matter how they feel about me, everybody on Oklahoma City, on that team, of course … I support them. I want them to do well.”
Durant has helped the Warriors do well by most teams' standards, opening the season with four consecutive 20-point games. He complemented the points with 10 and 17 rebounds in Golden State's first two games, then with a pair of four-steal outings in the Warriors' most recent efforts.
The run of 20-point games is nothing new to the Most Valuable Player candidate. He finished his Thunder career with 12 straight at the end of last year's regular season.
Westbrook, meanwhile, had a more conventional double-double with 32 points and 12 rebounds in the Thunder's opener, which he followed up with consecutive triple-doubles before Wednesday's debacle.
He's already had 2-for-10 and 0-for-7 shooting efforts from 3-point range in the early going.
Both teams will take the court Thursday on a remarkably poor run of 3-point shooting. Golden State (29.3 percent) and Oklahoma City (28.1) both rank among the bottom nine in shooting percentage from beyond the arc.