The 2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder were put together with one goal in mind. With the addition of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson, they were a squad looking to challenge the Golden State Warriors.
However, 16 games into the season, Oklahoma City hasn’t played like a contender. Coming off a loss to New Orleans Monday night, the Thunder are now 7-9 on the season. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
With that as the backdrop, the Warriors fly into town for a Wednesday night matchup at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Sitting on top of the Western Conference with a 13-4 record, Golden State should provide the Thunder with motivation needed to put their best performance of the season together.
However, according to Russell Westbrook, playing the defending champions means no more to him than any of team on Oklahoma City’s schedule.
“It really doesn’t matter who have next at this point,” Westbrook said. “It’s really about us. I think regardless of what other teams do, we know if we play the way we’re supposed to play, for 48 minutes, it’s hard to us. That’s all I worry about is our team.”
With everything that went into the departure of Kevin Durant and the fiery meetings between the teams last season, it’s hard to believe Westbrook has no extra feelings about the game. The hidden jabs between him and Durant say differently.
Yet, when Westbrook was asked has he gotten to the point where he treats the Warriors as just another game, Westbrook said “I’ve been at that point (long pause) since I got drafted.”
Whether that is true or not, Westbrook is correct in needing to only worry about the Thunder as their experiment has yet to be fully realized. While the players continue to put forth a confident face that things will turn around, almost every night new flaws keep revealing themselves.
“We know we have the talent, which is always great,” Westbrook said. “But you have to go put the work in and do what it takes to win games.”
Against the Pelicans it was defensive breakdowns and bad fouls throughout the game. And once again, they held a 19-point lead before allowing New Orleans to come back.
Stopping teams from scoring in bunches is an issue the Thunder will certainly have to deal with against the Warriors, who have a habit of stringing together game-altering runs.
“Obviously there are a lot of terrific teams in the league,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Golden State is at the top of the list. To be able to play against high-level teams, you have to play for 48 minutes. It’s not 24 minutes games. Tomorrow we have to be able to do that.”
Westbrook said making sure the Thunder play at a high level for a full game is on his shoulders as the team leader.
“I think a lot of guys prepare differently for games,” Westbrook said. “You have to figure how obviously we can all be on the same page. We have a group of new guys from the ones we had before. Have to get on the same page, especially with preparation. Making sure we’re all on the same page when we get on the floor.”