- When: Monday, 07 January 2013 at 06:00 CST
- Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
This is literally the NBA’s best versus the NBA’s worst. When the Oklahoma City Thunder meet the Washington Wizards on Monday night, Washington will be 21.5 games behind the Thunder with 32 games already played. The Thunder come into the game having defeated the Toronto Raptors in a Sunday matinee, 104-92. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant led 5 Thunder players in double figures with 23 and 22 points, respectively. After dropping 3 of 6, the Thunder have won 2 in a row by an average of 18 points.
In their only meeting last season, the Wizards defeated the Thunder 105-102. That was the Thunder’s only loss in a 12 game stretch during the early portion of the strike shortened season. Wizards’ point guard John Wall led the way with a near triple double of 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists. Russell Westbrook had 36 points, 5 boards, and 7 assists, while Kevin Durant had 33 points, but the Thunder could never catch up after digging themselves a hole early in the game.
The Washington Wizards find themselves with the worst record in the NBA at 4-28. They score an anemic 88.9 points per game, good for last in the league, while allowing 97.2 points per game. Part of the reason for their slow start is the absence of John Wall, who has been sidelined with a knee injury the entire season. The Wizards start Garrett Temple and rookie Bradley Beal in the back court. Beal was rumored to be a target of the Thunder’s in a possible draft day deal involving then Thunder guard James Harden. After averaging 11 points per game his first month of the season, Beal has increased his scoring to 14.4 point per game in December and January. He has also nearly doubled his assists numbers in that same time frame from 1.6 to 3.4 assists per game. Three point specialist Martell Webster is the other starting wing at small forward. The Wizards are formidable inside with a trio of veteran big men in Emeka Okafor, Nene, and Kevin Seraphin. Together the trio combines for 31.6 points, 18.8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. Off the bench, the Wizards deploy some fire power in the form of guard Jordan Crawford and Cartier Martin, who can easily rattle off 15-20 points in a game.
- PG – Garrett Temple
- SG – Bradley Beal
- SF – Martell Webster
- PF – Nene
- C – Emeka Okafor
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Thabo Sefolosha
- SF – Kevin Durant
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Kendrick Perkins
3 Keys to Victory
1) Long-term and short-term memory – The Wizards were 1-12 when the Thunder faced them last season and lost 105-102. The Wizards were 1-13 this season when they beat the Miami Heat, 105-101. Regardless of record, this is still a collection of professional players that plays in the NBA. With their record, they view the big time opponents as their playoff games.
2) Wizards inside trio (Okafor, Nene, Seraphin) vs. the Thunder’s inside trio (Perkins, Ibaka, and Nick Collison) – Though not as effective as they used to be, Emeka Okafor and Nene can still come up with double double games if given the opportunity. Seraphin is a lot like Ibaka from 2 years ago, still raw, but polished enough to give big minutes. The Wizards are the 7th best rebounding team in the league with an average of 43.6 rebounds per game. If the Thunder big men are not on their post games, the Wizards could collect second chance boards and make a game out of this.
3) Kevin Durant – Trevor Ariza is the only player on the Wizards that has a sliver of hope of guarding Durant, and he’ll probably be out with a strained calf. Martell Webster is too short, Chris Singleton is too slow, and Jan Vesely is too European to guard Durant one on one. Hometown Durant could be on full display tonight. The only person stopping Durant tonight is Durant…and the bench if he doesn’t get off of it in the 4th quarter.