Nets (4-7, 1-5 road) vs. Thunder (7-5, 5-3 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 99.4 (25th), Nets – 102.4 (18th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 100.5 (6th), Nets – 105.4 (19th)
The fortunes of the Oklahoma City Thunder depend almost entirely on their defense. Against one of the top offenses in the league, the Thunder held the Houston Rockets to 5 points under their seasonal average, while taking them out of their comfort zone. Andre Roberson completely blanketed James Harden throughout the game, which forced the Rockets’ offense to be run through someone else on the floor. With the Rockets’ lack of play-makers outside of Harden, they struggled to run their offense efficiently. That eventually cost them in the 4th quarter, as they failed to score in the final 6:25 of the quarter before scoring a meaningless three in the final second of the game.
In addition to great defense, Victor Oladipo decided to play his best game of the season, scoring 29 points on 12/18 shooting (to include 5 threes) and grabbing 10 rebounds. When he plays like this, the Thunder become difficult to defend. That gives the Thunder two attacking guards, which opens things up for their shooters. If you take away Roberson’s 0/5 performance from deep, the Thunder shot 60% from deep against the Rockets. It isn’t necessarily about Oladipo scoring 29 points per game, but more about consistency from game to game with him.
Season Series Preview
This is the first of two meetings between the Thunder and Nets this season. The Thunder split their season series with the Nets last year, which each team winning on its home floor.
The Nets find themselves with a 4-7 record, but are actually doing a little better than expected. Brooklyn was expected to be one of the worst teams in the league when the season began. While that still may become the case, the new players they’ve acquired have actually given the Nets a fighting mentality. Three of their losses have been by 7 points or less. Had a few more shots fallen here or there, the Nets could be coming into this game with a .500 record or better.
Brook Lopez continues to be one of the better offensive centers in the league. The 9th year center is averaging 20.6 points and 5.3 boards. He has slowly added a 3-point shot to his arsenal, and is currently shooting 32.7% from deep on 5.4!? attempts. Jeremy Lin is going to miss this game due to a strained hamstring. On the wing, Bojan Bogdanovic is like the Yugoslavian JR Smith. He can shoot you into games and he can shoot you out of games. Trevor Booker is their jack of all trades, averaging 9.7 points, 8.5 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game. Sean Kilpatrick is their most consistent 3-point shooter, making 34.6% of his 3’s. Off the bench, Justin Hamilton, Joe Hamilton, and Yogi Ferrell are a surprising bunch that can score points in bunches if given the chance.
- Cameron Payne (foot)
3 Big Things1. Defending their centers
The two Brooklyn centers, Lopez and Hamilton, are shooting a combined 10.6 three-pointers per game. With Steven Adams being the only reliable last line of the defense on the Thunder’s defense, if he finds himself floating on the perimeter, that will severely limit the amount of rim protection the Thunder have. You may see more minutes for Jerami Grant to act as a secondary rim protector in this game.2. Bench play
For as bad as the Nets were supposed to be, their bench is not bad. It’s very space and pace-oriented and can pile up points in a hurry. Similar to the Thunder’s bench, they are bad defensively. If the Thunder’s reserves can get their offensive game going, they may be able to stick with the Nets’ bench.3. Semaj Christon
He needs to start putting pressure on the defense when he has the ball. Too many times, Christon will give up on a drive when the defender gets in his way. Also, he needs to start finding angles to get passes to his cutters, especially Enes Kanter. The offense sometimes completely dies when he is running the show. I know some of it may be developmental growing pains, but Christon needs to start taking chances to see what works and what doesn’t work in a game.