Tag Archives: Emeka Okafor

Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns preview (Game 62 of 82)

westbrook tucker durant bledsoe thunder suns

  • When: Thursday, 06 March 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ

With their recent 6 game home stand behind them, the Thunder hit the road for the first time since February 13th. With 21 games left, the final quarter of the regular season is about positioning and health. With two starters down because of injury, it’s the Thunder’s depth (and their two superstars) that has been their saving grace. Having the ability to spring a player like Perry Jones III or Andre Roberson off the bench to be a starter is a luxury most teams do not have. Bringing a player that has only logged 44 minutes the entire season, only to have him play 53 quality minutes over the next 3 games like Hasheem Thabeet has, is a testament to the Thunder’s “next man up” philosophy.

This is the second meeting of the season between these two teams. The Thunder, and the Phoenix Suns for that matter, have come a long way from that early November game. In that game, which the Thunder won 103-96, Russell Westbrook made his regular season debut after missing the last 9 games of the playoffs the previous season and the first two games of this season.

The Opponent

frye dragic morris green suns

The Thunder’s last opponent, the Philadelphia 76ers, were what the Phoenix Suns were supposed to be this season. Heading into this season, many thought the Suns would be one of the main contenders for the Number 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. The Suns even appeared to be playing the part of a tanking team before the season started by trading starting C Marcin Gortat, PG Kendall Marshall, and SG Shannon Brown to the Washington Wizards for Emeka Okafor, who was probably going to be out for the season with a neck injury, and the Wizards’ 2014 1st round pick (that was top 12 protected). Then the season started, and something weird happened. First year coach Jeff Hornacek allowed the team to play to its strengths, instead of trying to integrate his system. The Suns won 5 of their first 7  games with a run and gun style that is very reminiscent of the “7 Seconds or Less” Suns of a couple seasons back that featured Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. Instead of Steve Nash, the Suns have the two-headed combo guard duo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. And instead of Amare Stoudemire, they have Miles Plumlee and Channing Frye. They’ve kept on winning, and currently find themselves with a record of 35-25, good for 7th in a tough Western Conference. They are a rag-tag bunch of good athletic players that were mostly cast-offs from their previous teams. Gerald Green and P.J. Tucker are perennial journeymen who have seen their NBA dreams take them to different leagues in different countries, the Morris twins have been reunited, and Leandro Barbosa has found the fountain of youth in Phoenix (actually, its probably just Phoenix’s medical staff working their old man shaman magic).

Probable Starting Line-ups

Phoenix Suns

  • PG – Goran Dragic
  • SG – Gerald Green
  • SF – P.J. Tucker
  • PF – Channing Frye
  • C – Alex Len

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Perry Jones III
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Battle of Rookie Big Men – This past draft was touted to be one of the better ones to find a quality big man. Alex Len, Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk, Mason Plumlee, and Gorgui Dieng are all playing rotational minutes for NBA teams. Nerlens Noel would be playing if it wasn’t for his recovery from an ACL tear. This is the first regular season match-up between the two rookie centers. They met in the preseason and Len was a DNP-CD in their first meeting of the season.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns

2. Perimeter Defense – Phoenix is not afraid to jack up the 3’s. They are top 3 in 3-point field goals made and in the top 10 in 3-point FG%. They have a bevy of shooters (Frye, Green, Marcus Morris, Tucker) and a great paint attacker in Dragic. This is where the Thunder can lose this game.

3. Bench – Phoenix has been decimated recently by injury. Miles Plumlee, Leandro Barbosa, and Eric Bledsoe will all miss the game due to injury. While the Thunder have their own injury issues to deal with, they have better depth and should be able to take advantage of this. For the second straight game, the Thunder welcome another player, as recently signed D-Leaguer Reggie Williams will be active for tonight’s game.

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Washington Wizards Preview (Game 34 of 82)

ibaka wiz

  • 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 Opponent

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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. 

Probable Starters

Washington Wizards

  • 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.

okafor

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.