Just three seasons ago, the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder could have met in a game billed as the Western Conference’s best versus its worst.
Now, with the roles reversed, the same description could hold true.
The Warriors look for a fifth consecutive win Sunday when they kick off a five-game road trip against the hapless Thunder.
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Excluding Golden State’s back-to-back losses on Nov. 9 and Nov. 11, the Warriors (9-2) have convincingly rolled through their schedule, owning a plus-15.6 point differential in their nine victories. They downed Utah 101-88 Friday for their third straight double-digit win despite an unusually slow night from Stephen Curry.
Curry converted only three of nine field goals for eight points and added 10 assists while six other Warriors carried the offense by scoring in double figures. Andre Iguodala led the way with 17 points, and Harrison Barnes contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Most notable was Golden State’s defense, which held the Jazz to a season-worst 42.7 percent shooting and forced 20 turnovers.
”The encouraging thing tonight was it showed to our guys that if we just defend and take care of the ball we can win a lot of games even if we don’t shoot well,” coach Steve Kerr said. ”That’s the mark of a good team.”
The Warriors are among the league’s top three teams in defensive field-goal percentage, holding opponents to just 41.5 percent.
Golden State has been excelling just about everywhere offensively. The Warriors rank at or near the top of the NBA in field-goal percentage (49.9), 3-point percentage (38.6), points per game (107.9), free-throw percentage (80.2), and point differential (10.5).
Oklahoma City (3-11), on the other hand, ranks as one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA. The Thunder, averaging 89.9 points, have shot 39.3 percent during their five-game losing streak.
The Thunder blew a 10-point lead with 14 minutes to play in Friday’s 94-92 loss to Brooklyn, with Reggie Jackson missing a 3-pointer as time expired.
"We’ve been battling with everybody and been close in every game," Jackson told the Thunder’s official website. "It’s only a matter of time. If we keep believing we’ll get over this hump."
Jackson leads Oklahoma City with 19.9 points and 7.7 assists per game, but he has also committed 3.3 turnovers per contest – one of the highest marks in the NBA.
Serge Ibaka’s offensive numbers have also spiked in the absence of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He is averaging 15.6 points and shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range. He’s already matched his total number of 3-point attempts (60) from last season in 67 fewer games.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Durant (broken right foot) and Westbrook (broken right hand) are coming along well in their recoveries, but neither has participated in contact drills.
Curry averaged 30.3 points and Klay Thompson went 14 of 27 from long distance as Golden State went 1-2 against the Thunder last season, with each team protecting its home court.
Curry had 37 and 11 assists in the most recent meeting in Oklahoma City on Jan. 17, but Durant exploded for a career-high 54 on just 28 field-goal attempts.