Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers preview (Game 27 of 82)

westbrook thunder bryant lakers

  • When: Friday, 19 December 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

That’s the thing about streaks; eventually, they come to an end. It felt good for the Oklahoma City Thunder to finally run off a couple wins. Seven straight wins put the train back on the tracks. The Thunder suffered a tough break with Kevin Durant’s sprained ankle before the half, as he was probably having the best first half of his career. Thirty points in 18 minutes of play was quite memorable. The Thunder hung around, but the Golden State Warriors proved to be too much for them in the end. The only solace is that the end of one streak usually signifies the beginning of another. The question is whether it will be a winning streak or a losing streak.

This will be the first of three meetings between the Thunder and Lakers. The Thunder won the season series 3-1 last season, winning two of those games by at least 25 points.

The Opponent

young bryant lin lakers

These are definitely not your father’s Lakers. They currently have an 8-17 record, but have won 3 of their last 4 games. Their recent hot streak has coincided with the return of Nick Young. The addition of another scorer/ball handler has taken some of the pressure off of Kobe Bryant and allowed the Lakers’ offense to open up a bit. The issue with the Lakers though, has been their defense. They are allowing the most points per game in the league at 109.5 points, and have the league’s worst defensive rating (113.7). After failing miserably in free agency, the Lakers had to cobble together a roster and this is the result. At point guard, the Lakers used Jeremy Lin to begin the season, but have gone with Ronnie Price lately. Price is the better defensive player, but can’t provide the threat offensively that Lin can give you on some nights. On the wing, Kobe Bryant can still fill it up. Though injuries have sapped some of his athleticism, Bryant still has the intelligence and moxie to do what he needs to do on the court. Wesley Johnson gives the Lakers a 3 and D guy that can run the floor in transition. A lot like the point guard position, the Lakers started the season with Carlos Boozer at the 4, but have since gone with the more athletic (and younger) Ed Davis. This appears to be a offense to defense move in that Davis is better on the boards and defensively. Up front, Jordan Hill is a near double double threat on most nights. Off the bench, the aforementioned Young will start the game off the bench, but usually finishes the game out with Bryant. The demotion of Boozer and Lin actually bolster the bench and gives the Lakers more options in their closing line-ups.

Probable Starting Line-up

Los Angeles Lakers

  • PG – Ronnie Price
  • SG – Kobe Bryant
  • SF – Wesley Johnson
  • PF – Ed Davis
  • C – Jordan Hill

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Perry Jones
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

* – Kevin Durant will miss this game with an ankle sprain and is day to day

3 Keys to the Game

1. Run, Russell, Run - This team allows the most points in the NBA. Opposing guards usually get past the first line of defense and into the paint quite easily against the Lakers, which puts the rest of the defense at a disadvantage. Russell Westbrook is one of the best guards at breaking down the defense at the point of attack, and should have his pick of the litter in this game. Also, the older nature of the Lakers makes them susceptible in transition. And Westbrook is a one-man fast break on his own. Also, I think we see good Reggie Jackson in this game.

roberson thunder bryant lakers

2. Roberson - It’s been a joy seeing this young guy blossom into one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Now he gets to defend the “badge of honor” of perimeter players. Even in his old age, defenders still look forward to locking down Kobe to see where they stand. Hell, Roberson may need to slide over onto Young if he starts to get hot from the perimeter.

3. Start a new win streak - The rest of this season will be about winning blocks of games. It will be about looking at the rest of the schedule in 5-8 game increments and needing to win at least 60% of those games. The Thunder need to win the games that they are supposed to win, and this is one of those games.

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Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors preview (Game 26 of 82)

perkins thunder

  • When: Thursday, 18 December 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA

Most games in the regular season are not must-wins. Teams battling for the 8th spot in their respective conferences at the end of the season face must-win games. Teams on the brink of elimination in the playoffs face must-win games. But games in December can rarely be labeled must-win games. Even if the Thunder lose tonight, they are still well on pace to get into the playoffs comfortably. So while it isn’t a must-win game, it definitely is a “want to”-win game. After starting the season off in shambles due to injuries, it sure would be nice to send a message to the rest of the league that we are back.

This is the second of four meetings between the Thunder and Golden State Warriors. The under-manned Thunder played the Warriors valiantly in their first meeting, losing 91-86. That is the lowest point total the Warriors have been held to all season.

The Opponent

curry thompson green warriors

The Golden State Warriors currently sit perched atop of the rest of the league with a 21-3 record. After winning 16 in a row, the Warriors lost their last game to the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis. First year head coach Steve Kerr has jumped out to the best 24 game start to begin a coach career in league history. The Warriors rank in the top 10 in most major statistical categories. Their defense is predicated on blowing up pick and rolls and forcing you to take mid-range shots early in the shot clock. On offense, the shooting of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson (or the fear of them shooting) creates a ton of space for them to do their work and for others to get open. The Splash Brothers are currently averaging 45.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 10.9 assists, and 3.2 steals per game on 46.6/41.0/89.5% shooting splits combined. This backcourt is highly efficient and each player is capable of exploding for 35+ points on any given night. Because of David Lee’s injury and Andre Iguadola’s move to the bench, Kerr has been going with Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green at the forward spots. Barnes plays more of the small forward role, while Green has been a  terror as an undersized stretch-4. Both players are shooting over 35% from deep this season. Up front, Festus Ezeli mans the middle in place of the injured Andrew Bogut. Off the bench, the aforementioned Iguadola, Marreese Speights, and Shaun Livingston give the Warriors a veteran reserve bunch that will not lose them many games.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Golden State Warriors

  • PG – Steph Curry
  • SG – Klay Thompson
  • SF – Harrison Barnes
  • PF – Draymond Green
  • C – Festus Ezeli

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Transition Defense - There’s a reason why the Warriors are No. 1 in the league in pace: their fast breaks don’t have to go all the way to the rim. The Warriors are just as happy shooting up 30 footers while the defense is getting set back up as they are gliding in for lay-ups. It’ll be extremely important for the Thunder to get back on defense as quickly as possible to contest anything from Curry and Thompson.

2. Match-up Landmines - The first match-up problem I see is Ibaka vs. Green. It would almost be better for the Thunder to go small from the beginning with Ibaka as the 5 and Perry Jones getting minutes at forward. Another match-up nightmare is Kendrick Perkins vs. Speights. This manifested itself the last time these two teams played, as Speights went off for 28 points off the bench on an array of mid-range jumpers against the slower Perkins. Another match-up problem could be Reggie Jackson vs. Livingston. Livingston has made a career of taking small pg’s down on the block due to his height advantage.

westbrook thunder ezeli warriors

3. Sit back and enjoy - If you are a fan of basketball, these last two nights have been great. The Warriors/Grizzlies match-up on Tuesday was good and the triple-overtime thriller between the Grizzlies and Spurs last night was even better. But if you remember back to the first two games the Thunder and Warriors played last season, then you already have a blueprint as to how tonight might play out.

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Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings preview (Game 25 of 82)

durant thunder thompson kings

  • When: Tuesday, 16 December 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA

The Oklahoma City Thunder are slowly climbing that playoff ladder. With their win against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday and the Suns’ last second loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, the Thunder found themselves half a game from the 8th spot, behind the New Orleans Pelicans. While injuries tripped up the Thunder at the beginning of the season, injuries seem to be tripping up some of the teams the Thunder are currently look to climb over. Goran Dragic missed the Suns’ last two games with a back injury. Anthony Davis missed the last game for the Pelicans with a bruised chest. And Demarcus Cousins has missed the last 9 games for the Kings with viral meningitis. The breaks other teams were catching when the Thunder were injured, are the same breaks the Thunder are now catching against other teams. Such is the beast known at the NBA regular season.

This is the second of four meeting between the Thunder and Kings. The Thunder won the first meeting 101-93 in Oklahoma City. In that game, Reggie Jackson scored 11 of his 22 points in the 4th quarter to help the Thunder hold off the Kings who made a furious charge in the 2nd half after being down by 13 at halftime.

The Opponent

gay mclemore collison kings

The Sacramento Kings currently sit at 11-13, which is the same record as the Thunder. After starting the season off 9-5, the Kings have gone on to drop 8 of their last 10, culminating in the firing of head coach Michael Malone. From all reports, the Kings front office and the coach disagreed on a number of player personnel issues and the losing streak was just a means to an end for the front office. The recent slide can be directly linked to star center DeMarcus Cousins being sidelined with viral meningitis. Without a presence in the middle, defenses have been able to defend the Kings’ perimeter players one on one and not allow them to get open shots. Leading the Kings’ attack is Darren Collison, who is averaging 16 points and 6.3 assists per game. While never one to be mistaken with the league’s elite point guards, Collison can hold his own with his quickness and ability to get into the lane. On the perimeter, Ben McLemore and Rudy Gay may not be the most efficient bunch, but if they get going, they can take over games from the perimeter. Up front, the loss of  Cousins exposes the lack of depth the Kings have on the interior. Which is surprising considering half their roster is power forwards. Off the bench, Ray McCallum, Ramon Sessions, Carl Landry, Reggie Evans, and Nik Stauskas provide the Kings with some depth, especially in the back court. Omri Casspi and the aforementioned Cousins will be out tonight.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Darren Collison
  • SG – Ben McLemore
  • SF – Rudy Gay
  • PF – Jason Thompson
  • C – Ryan Hollins

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Trap-Game Potential - Having just played the No. 8 team (at the time) in the Western Conference standings and possibly looking ahead to a prime-time match-up with the Golden State Warriors, this game has high trap game potential. Add to that the fact the Kings are slumping, missing their best player, playing for a new head coach, and playing at home on national TV, and you have the perfect formula for a let down on the Thunder’s part.

2. Rebounding - There has been a lot of correlation lately between the Thunder out-rebounding their opponents and winning games comfortably. The Kings have a stable of power forwards that can grab rebounds by the bunches. If a Thunder allow them to get too comfortable on the interior, then the Kings will eventually take advantage of their 2nd chance opportunities.

perkins collison thunder thompson kings

3. Rudy Gay/Kendrick Perkins - There are a couple givens in life: Death, taxes, and the “Kendrick Perkins offensive foul due to a hard screen on Rudy Gay” play. It’s coming. Bank on it.

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Phoenix Suns vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 24 of 82)

westbrook thunder dragic suns

  • When: Sunday, 14 December 2014 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

While positions 1 through 7 are well represented and accounted for in the Western Conference playoff picture, the 8th spot is looking like if Kim Kardashian announced she was newly single at the BET Source Awards. Six games currently separate the 8th seed from the final seed in the conference. With a quarter of the season already played, there is still plenty of time for teams to make their moves to get into that final spot. One of the best things for a team to do in this position is to assert themselves by beating the teams around them in the standings. For the Thunder, those teams would realistically be the Suns, Pelicans, Kings, Nuggets, and Lakers. The Jazz and Timberwolves have little shot of moving up in the standings due to their inexperience and general direction of their team currently (rebuilding, player developing, etc.).

This is the first of four meetings this season between the Thunder and Phoenix Suns. The Suns’ run and gun style gave the Thunder issues last season as the Suns won 2 of 3 games in the season series and averaged 115.3 points per game in those three meetings.

The Opponent

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Atlanta Hawks

The Phoenix Suns come into this game with a 12-12 record, barely clinging on to the 8th seed in the Western Conference. After starting the season 9-5, they’ve gone on to drop 7 of their next 10. While the offense is still there (105.4 points per game, good for 5th in the league), the Suns have slipped defensively. They allowed 103.9 point per game (26th in the league) and grab only 41.8 boards per game, which is 19th in the league. As high-octane as their offense is, a lot of it is predicated on one on one play and perimeter shot making, which can make it inefficient at times. Leading the charge is the two-headed point guard duo of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Bledsoe is the havoc creator, while Dragic is the more efficient player. Between the two, they are averaging nearly 32 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 10 assists per game. On the wing, PJ Tucker provides the perimeter defense for the Suns. Up front, Markieff Morris leads the team in rebounding at 6.5 per game, but spends much of his time on the perimeter in the mid-range. After having a breakout season, Miles Plumlee has regressed quite a bit, which has hurt the Suns’ interior play. The Suns feature one of the more offensively dangerous benches in the league, as Gerald Green, Isaiah Thomas, and Marcus Morris can all go off for 20 points in a game, easily.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Phoenix Suns

  • PG – Eric Bledsoe
  • SG – Goran Dragic
  • SF – PJ Tucker
  • PF – Markieff Morris
  • C – Miles Plumlee

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Guard Play - So much of the Suns’ identity is dependent on guard play. Their recent struggles coincided with the 8-game absence from Isaiah Thomas due to a bruised ankle. The Suns’ strongest line-ups usually involve the trio of Bledsoe, Dragic, and Thomas. Luckily, the Thunder have options that can defend such a line-up. Don’t be surprise if Ish Smith gets some minutes in this game to counter the Suns’ guard play.

bledsoe suns durant collison thunder

2. The Interior - The Suns’ biggest weakness is their lack of an interior presence. In the last two weeks, the Suns have allowed Tyson Chandler to grab 18 boards, and Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan to grab 14 board each. While the Thunder don’t necessarily have a rebound-inhaler like those 3 guys, their big man can rack up the rebounding numbers if the opposing team is weak on the interior.

3. Playoff Intensity - It’s early, but the Thunder have to come out and assert themselves. They’ve been fortunate to have all the pieces come together during a stretch where they’ve played some of the worst teams in the league. This “mini training camp” has been instrumental in developing chemistry. But now, it’s time to put all that practice to work.

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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 22 of 82)

westbrook durant irving thompson cavs thunder

  • When: Thursday, 11 December 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The first real test of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s new season. The Thunder have quietly won 5 of their last 6 games and seem to be hitting their stride. Russell Westbrook has been MVP-worthy in the games that he has played. Kevin Durant appears to be getting back into game shape. And the Thunder, as a whole, are getting used to playing as a full collective. In the last game, against the Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City trotted out multiple small ball lineups to combat what Milwaukee was doing. And they worked for the most part. As much as the young Thunder have grown in that trying first month, Scott Brooks appears to have grown as much. Brooks is like a kid in a candy store with all the line-up possibilities. Once known for his stubbornness in adapting to the opponent’s personnel, Brooks now appears confident enough in his rotation to trot out various line-ups to combat whatever the opponent is throwing out there.

This is the first meeting of the season between the Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They split their two meetings last season, but these are not your 1 year old son’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Past history will likely have little bearing on these future meetings.

The Opponent

lebron james kevin love kyrie irving cavs

The Cavaliers come into tonight’s game with a 13-7 record, riding an 8-game win streak. After a rough start that saw them start the season 5-7, the Cavs seem to have finally righted the ship. LeBron James is once again LeBroning (no, not that LeBroning), and the other “big 2″, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, are getting used to their new roles. The Cavs are top-1o in most major categories except for defensive rating (14th – 106.1) and rebounding (24th – 41.2 per game). Leading the charge is 4th year point guard Kyrie Irving, who has slowly adjusted to his new role as a facilitator/attacker from just solely being an attacker. Irving’s ability to pick and choose the right spots where he is needed to take over has been a big factor in the Cavs’ recent resurgence. On the wing, LeBron James has recovered from his early season swoon, and is back to being his MVP-caliber self, averaging 24.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. On the other wing, Cavs coach Dave Blatt inserted veteran SF Shawn Marion into the starting line-up early in the season to help provide some perimeter defense. Up front, Kevin Love has probably had to make the biggest adjustment of the the 3 All-Stars. To go from alpha male to 3rd option can be a difficult change. But Love has done his best Chris Bosh impersonation and is learning how to make the most of his opportunities when they are presented. The veteran Anderson Varejao mans the middle providing his usual energy and defensive presence. Off the bench, Dion Waiter, Tristan Thompson, and Matthew Dellavedova will get most of the reserve minutes.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • PG – Kyrie Irving
  • SG – LeBron James
  • SF – Shawn Marion
  • PF – Kevin Love
  • C – Anderson Varejao

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

Key Match-Ups

1. LeBron James vs. Andre Roberson/Perry Jones - Yes, Kevin Durant will guard James at times. But a lot of the success of the Thunder will be dependent on Durant being on the floor and not getting into foul trouble. This is where Roberson and Jones come into play. Jones’ career, before his 3-game scoring binge at the beginning of this season, has been defined by the job he did on James in the 2nd half of the Thunder game against the Heat in Miami last season. While he didn’t necessarily shut him down, he did make James work for whatever he got in that game. And most importantly, he kept Durant off of James.

NBA: Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder

2. Serge Ibaka vs. Kevin Love - Love has always been a match-up nightmare for Ibaka. Love can grab rebounds with the best of them, but can also take you outside on the perimeter. That inside/outside game can cause Ibaka to get lost in the shuffle. Look for the Thunder to play smaller, and for Ibaka to be more on Thompson or Varejao than Love.

3. Russell Westbrook vs. Kyrie Irving - Whoever plays the smarter game will likely lead their team to victory. But one of these two, if not both, will likely look to one up the other at some point in the game.

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding - A lot like LeBron’s Miami teams, rebounding is a weakness of this Cavalier team. Even with Kevin Love, who is averaging his lowest rebounds per game average since his rookie season, the Cavs still struggle on the boards. On the offensive end, Love finds himself on the perimeter many times, negating offensive rebounding opportunities. Defensively, Cleveland’s penchant for forcing teams to shoot jumpers, causes long rebound opportunities to land in the lap of the offense. The Thunder will definitely need more than 1 rebound in a half from Steven Adams in this game.

ibaka jackson morrow thunder

2. Bench - The Thunder’s bench unit is becoming one of the better ones in the league. The Cavs bench is one that can be extremely streaky, especially Waiters. As long as Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, and Anthony Morrow play their games, the Thunder bench should be a net positive against the Cavs.

3. Mike Miller - I don’t care if Miller has missed the last 3 games with a concussion. He should be available for this game, and he torches Oklahoma City nearly every time he plays against us. I fully expect him to go 4/5 on 3-point shots.

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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 21 of 82)

perkins morrow thunder mayo bucks

  • When: Tuesday, 09 December 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

It’s been 4 out of 5 games. Against some of the worst teams in the league. But they have been victories, and they have been needed. The Thunder can’t be picky from here on out about how or against whom they get their wins. They just have to get them…and by the bunches, if possible. Their past game and this game are bit of a redemption tour for the Thunder. And that’s basically what the rest of this season is going to be. The necessity of making up for the lost first month of the season will be the theme of the season. Fortunately, for the first time all season, the Thunder have been healthy for some games now, and appear to be hitting their stride.

This is the 2nd meeting of the season between these two teams. In the first game, the Bucks used a strong second quarter to wrestle the game from the Thunder, and kept them at bay in the 2nd half to win 85-78.

The Opponent

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Minnesota Timberwolves

The Bucks come into this game with a surprising 11-11 record, but have lost 4 out of their last 5 games. They have feasted on the weak teams in the league, to include Oklahoma City when they were the walking wounded. Against teams with a record of .500 or higher, Milwaukee is only 1-8 this season. They are middle of the road in most statistical categories, and are just now learning how to compete in the league. Point guard Brandon Knight seems to be coming into his own, after struggling to find his way in Detroit and in his first season with Milwaukee last year. He leads the team in points (17.6), assists (5.8), and steals (1.5), and has been surprisingly efficient. On the wings, OJ Mayo and Giannis Antetokounmpo provide a contrast of styles that can make them difficult to defend. Mayo is the perimeter player who can be streaky at times, while Antetokounmpo is the genetic freak that is just now learning how to use his physical tools. Rookie Jabari Parker has seen his averages steadily improve as the season has progressed. Up front, Larry Sanders has kept himself out of trouble and is giving the Bucks what they expected of him, which is defense and rebounding. The Bucks have one of the more deeper benches in the league, and it is not uncommon for them to regularly go 11 or 12 deep in a game. It features a mix of young and old, with veterans like Jerryd Bayless, Jared Dudley, Ersan Ilyasova, and Zaza Pachulia, and young players like Khris Middleton and Kendall Marshall all getting significant playing time.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Milwaukee Bucks

  • PG – Brandon Knight
  • SG – OJ Mayo
  • SF – Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • PF – Jabari Parker
  • C – Larry Sanders

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

Match-ups To Watch

1. Kevin Durant vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo - Freak vs. Freak. If you were to go into some Cold War-aged, unethical, secluded laboratory located somewhere in a bunker east of the Balkans that allowed experimentation on humans and were told to create the perfect basketball player, you’d probably create something along the lines of Durant and Antetokounmpo (but with a little bit more muscle mass, of course). Two 6’10-ish guys that can move gracefully and handle the ball well enough to be considered guards.

durant thunder antetokounmpo bucks

2. Serge Ibaka vs. Jabari Parker - Parker is currently undersized for the position, but he is probably versatile enough to give Ibaka problems on the perimeter. While Ibaka may have the edge in the rebounding department, Parker’s ability to float around the perimeter will likely negate Ibaka’s best strength, which is as a rim protector.

3. Kendrick Perkins vs. Zaza Pachulia - Silver back vs. Gümüs geri (silver back in Georgian). Perkins has been pretty successful in his transition to the bench. We’ll see how he handles the king of the back-up bigs in Pachulia.

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding - The Bucks are 3rd in the league in terms of offensive boards (11.5/game), while at the same time, giving up about the same amount of offensive boards away (11.4/game). Which ever team puts their stamp on the board, will likely win this game.

pachulia bucks adams thunder

2. Bench - When the Bucks and Thunder first met, Milwaukee sported one of the best scoring benches in the league. And it showed as the Bucks bench outscored the Thunder bench 53-22 in the first meeting. Since then, though, Mayo and Antetokounmpo have moved into the starting line-up and Ilyasova and John Henson are both out with injuries. Conversely, the Thunder now sport a fully healthy team. That, combined with Jeremy Lamb’s recent resurgence, likely means the Thunder will take advantage of their off the bench.

3. Durant and Westbrook - This is their first game in Oklahoma City as a healthy duo. Hopefully, a little home cooking will be the catalyst the team needs to get into the right groove.

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Oklahoma City Thunder at Philadelphia 76ers preview (Game 19 of 82)

westbrook thunder carter williams 76ers

  • When: Friday, 05 December 2014 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

Expectations can be a horrible thing at times. We look at players as statistical numbers, thinking that once they are plugged back into the lineup, their numbers will be added to the bottom line. In emotional haste for satisfaction, we forget to consider the effects of an adjustment period. And that’s what we saw happen on Tuesday, when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played for the first time together all season. We figured, “20 game win streak upcoming”. Instead, we got a team that seemed a bit too amped up (I’m looking at you Westbrook) and  a defense (or lack thereof) that had only reared its ugly head a couple times this season. Luckily, the Thunder are getting healthy at a time in the schedule where they can fit in some practices. Hopefully, the Thunder can adjust quickly enough and get their chemistry and timing down.

This is the first of two meetings this season between the Thunder and 76ers. The Thunder have won the last 10 meetings against the 76ers, dating back to their inaugural season in Oklahoma City.

The Opponent

Houston Rockets v Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers come into the game with a 1-17 record, and are riding the high of a 1-game winning streak. This team is the reason draft reform was even brought up earlier this season. The front office has purposely put together a team that is devoid of any establised talent and, outside of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, devoid of any veteran presence. The team is a mixture of burgeoning first round talent, 2nd round hopefuls, and D-League graduates. Michael Carter-Williams returned from shoulder surgery a couple games back and is looking to build on his Rookie of the Year campaign from last season. Though he is offensively inefficient (36.8% FG, 23.5% 3Pt FG), he is a triple double threat every time he walks on the court. Joining him in the backcourt is Tony Wroten, who leads the team in scoring (17.9), assists (6.3), and steals (1.9). Unfortunately, Wroten has been out for the past 3 games due to a sprained knee and will miss the game against the Thunder. Hollis Thompson, who was once a training camp invitee of the Thunder, will replace him in the starting line-up. Up front, Nerlens Noel and Henry Sims provide the Sixers with a front line that struggles at times offensively, but whose energy can affect the game in other ways (defense, rebounding, etc). Off the bench, rookie KJ McDaniels is one of the more versatile players in the league, and Robert Covington is a D-League legend that can fill it up “Nick Young-style” if you allow him to get going.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Philadelphia 76ers

  • PG – Michael Carter-Williams
  • SG – Hollis Thompson
  • SF – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
  • PF – Nerlens Noel
  • C – Henry Sims

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Defense - This team is horrible offensively. They are last in points per game and offensive rating. They are an inefficient bunch that relies on transition opportunities and 2nd chance points to do most of their scoring. With that said, this is still an NBA team that has pushed some good teams to the brink of defeat this season. Also, Covington, McDaniels, and Thompson can light it up from 3-point territory if they are given the opportunity. The Thunder need to come into this game with a defensive mindset and not allow the Sixers any semblance of hope.

jackson thunder carter williams 76ers

2. Depth - The Thunder will finally have a full roster on Friday. All 13 players who will be active will be available for tonight’s game. I have to write that because it is the first time this season I can do that. The Sixers are missing a key piece in Wroten and are talent depleted as is. The Thunder need to take advantage of their depth and wear the Sixers away.

3. Just win - A win streak always starts at one (just ask the Sixers). If the Thunder are to start making up any ground, tonight would probably be the most opportune time to do that.

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