Revamped Warriors, OKC gird for collision sans Durant

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Golden State superstar Stephen Curry (30) surges past Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kyle Singler (5) and Russell Westbrook during their NBA regular season clash. The two powerhouse teams are set to face off again on Tuesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. AP

OKLAHOMA – The last time Golden State paid Oklahoma City a visit, it was the biggest spectacle of the NBA season. With Kevin Durant making his first trip to Oklahoma City in a visitor’s uniform, it spawned cupcake chants that rang throughout the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

But the one indelible image that came out of the Feb. 11 confrontation was Durant standing on one side of half-court going back and forth with his former teammate Russell Westbrook, who was yelling, “I’m coming. I’m coming.”

It was the most exciting moment of what ended up being another blowout win by the Warriors over the Thunder. Golden State prevailed 130-114, improving to 3-0 for the season against Oklahoma City, with the average margin of victory 21 points.

However, when Oklahoma City (40-29) hosts Golden State (55-14) on Monday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, both teams will look drastically different than in their previous confrontations. But that hasn’t changed the intensity of the contest.

“The most important thing is not worry about them,” Thunder center Enes Kanter said. “Just worry about us. If we play our game, then we’re going to be fine.”

The Warriors will be without Durant, who torched his former team in each of their three wins. He is still recovering from a grade 2 MCL sprain and tibial bone bruise that has sidelined him since Feb. 28.

However, Durant will be in the building as he makes his first road trip since his surgery.

The Warriors picked up Matt Barnes to replace Durant. He has started to fit in to what the squad is doing as of late.

What hasn’t changed is how dangerous Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are for the Warriors. They are the core that guided the Golden State back from a 3-1 deficit against Oklahoma City during last season’s Western Conference finals. So the Thunder players and coaches know exactly what the Warriors are capable of, even without Durant.

Oklahoma City has also made wholesale changes since their Feb. 11 defeat. Almost two weeks later, the Thunder added Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.

But it is defense Oklahoma City will need to make sure is on a high level. Golden State is still the No. 1 scoring team in the league. (AP)