Russell Westbrook is back. No minutes restriction.
The reigning MVP has returned to a team that had found its stride without him, having won 10 of 11 games without him prior to Monday night’s 117-113 loss in Sacramento. Westbrook came back after a five-game absence due to an ankle sprain and was apparently inspired after watching twin daughters come into the world on Saturday night. He’s good to go and won’t face a minutes limit.
Westbrook scored 29 points and delivered 13 assists, helping the Thunder escape a 19-point deficit he helped create, so the full Russell Westbrook experience is back in action. He fouled Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein and nearly got into a legitimate skirmish when the 7-footer took exception to the contact to make for an eventful return. The Westbrook Way is quite the ride, currently matched only by the struggling Warriors in terms of turmoil.
Golden State head coach Steve Kerr admits his team has been in a fantasy land over the past few seasons due to their collective strength and is now seeing how the other side lives with Draymond Green nursing an injured toe and Stephen Curry continuing to miss time with a groin strain that will keep him out the remainder of the week.
The paths of the Warriors and Thunder cross in Oakland on Wednesday night, where Golden State will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak. Kerr has said his Warriors are banged up spiritually in addition to physically as his team has shot it poorly, making just 18-for-77 (23.3 percent) from 3-point range in the losses. Klay Thompson shot just 5-for-27 in road setbacks to Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. The Warriors fell by a combined 36 points and enter the week wounded with Curry out and Green’s status in doubt.
We’ll pass on Wednesday’s Warriors-Thunder meeting due to the current volatility both are facing but really like the prospect of fading each of them on Saturday night as they play their third game in four nights.
Kings at Warriors (Saturday): Golden State will likely pack its best punch for Friday’s game against Portland and Oakland-born Damian Lillard, who always brings a little extra when playing against his hometown team. The Blazers enter the week atop the Northwest Division, so a date with the Warriors will be a statement game regardless of whether the defending champions are whole or not. Golden State will therefore not have a lot left in the tank when Sacramento arrives on Saturday night.
The Kings entered Wednesday with a winning record through 17 games and are much improved due to the efforts of second-year point guard De’Aaron Fox and the aforementioned Cauley-Stein. Take the points. KINGS
Nuggets at Thunder (Saturday): The Thunder open a four-game homestand on Friday night against surging scorer Kemba Walker and a Hornets team that they’ll be looking to complete a season sweep against, having won a 111-107 game in Charlotte on Nov. 1. Following that taxing game, Denver comes into town for the first meeting of the season between the Northwest powers. Ride the Nuggets, also likely getting at least a bucket on the road. NUGGETS
Last week: 0-2