Just two weeks shy of the last time the Golden State Warriors last played at Oklahoma City, they make a return visit Saturday, aimed on improving what became a disastrous afternoon against the Thunder.
On Oct. 27, the Warriors fell 120-92 to the Thunder on the first night of back-to-back games. They moved on to New Orleans the next day and defeated the Pelicans 134-123, which ended up being Steph Curry's last full game before he broke his hand a few days later.
It was more than just the score against the Thunder that made the Warriors' second defeat of the season such an eyesore. While they lost by 28 points, they actually trailed by as many as 42 points a few times.
There was more. Curry was called for a technical foul when he appeared to hit Thunder guard Terrance Ferguson in the crotch while dribbling across midcourt. D'Angelo Russell was then ejected when he picked up two technical fouls for continuing to argue about a no-call after a shot attempt.
In a season that already has delivered its share of low points, the defeat still stands out.
Curry's loss to injury was the biggest blow. Since then, the Warriors have just one victory and will again be playing on back-to-back nights, having lost 125-119 in overtime at Minnesota on Friday.
On Monday, the Warriors won their first game in their new arena, a 127-118 uprising against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Despite Friday's loss, the Warriors got some good news with the return of Russell to the lineup after missing three games with a sprained right ankle. He was among three players listed as questionable for Golden State.
Russell came back with a flourish, posting 52 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes.
"I think I'm capable of doing whatever with the ball in my hands. Just trying to make a play every time. Fortunately the shots were going in and we were making plays. It happens like that in this league," Russell said after the game
Jacob Evans (adductor) and Draymond Green (finger) were also listed as questionable but did not play. Curry (hand), Kevon Looney (neuropathy), Alen Smailagic (ankle) and Klay Thompson (knee) were out.
"We have a young team and they have a lot to learn," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said this week, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Thunder is not young, necessarily. Instead, they are trying to forge a bond with a reshaped roster. Oklahoma City is getting plenty of production from its guards: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder.
Newcomer Danilo Gallinari has been productive, and center Steven Adams is back after missing some time with a left knee contusion. But the Thunder are just 3-5 and will enter off a 121-112 defeat at San Antonio on Thursday. Adams had just five rebounds in 27 minutes of that game, the first time this season he has not been in double digits.
Paul's veteran leadership is key, but the production from Gilgeous-Alexander has been promising. The second-year player, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers when Paul George went west, leads the Thunder with 22.0 points per game. The svelte 6-foot-5 guard is even pulling down 5.9 rebounds per game, second best on the team.
"The players that we've got, it's just a matter of time and working together," said Gallinari, who also played with Gilgeous-Alexander in Los Angeles last season. "Game by game we're getting better, and that's what we're going to keep doing."
--Field Level Media