Pistons (8-9, 1-7 road) vs. Thunder (9-8, 6-4 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 – 102.1 (18th), Pistons – 100.8 (24th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.7 (13th), Pistons – 100.9 (6th)
It wasn’t necessarily a must-win game. But it was definitely a comforting victory. Comforting in the fact that the Oklahoma City Thunder still remembered how to win a close game. Comforting in the fact the Thunder remembered how to get stops in crunch-time.
But as is usually the case with this Thunder team, it was also frustrating. Frustrating because the same scenario that played out in the previous 3 losses, played itself out in the Nuggets’ game. Double-digit deficits throughout the second half. Swiss-cheese defense with no interior presence. The only saving grace for the Thunder was the fact that Denver’s go-to guy at the end of the game was playing in Lexington, KY at this same point last year. The Thunder defense focused their attention to Jamal Murray late in the 4th quarter and overtime, and got the stops they needed.
The other saving grace for the Thunder was the fact that they have a player by the name of Russell Westbrook. Despite every opponent’s efforts to mute the whirling dervish that wears number 0 for the Thunder, Westbrook continues to defy the odds and rack up multiple triple-doubles. His latest one against Denver was his 6th of the season, and came with an NBA season high 18 assists. You know he’ll eventually wear out if he keeps playing this way, but the journey along the way has been nothing but impressive.
Season Series Review
This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Pistons. The Pistons blitzed the Thunder in their first meeting of the season, 104-88, without their two best players in Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. That loss, nearly two weeks ago, was their fourth in a row at the time, and continued a troubling style of play for the Thunder has has not relented for about the past two weeks.
The Pistons come into the game with an 8-9 record, having won their last two games. The Pistons is a strange team that is good at home, but horrid on the road. Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy is equally as perturbed, stating “I don’t know. It’s been a mystery to me because we’ve been really, really different. Haven’t been nearly as good on the defensive end of the floor on the road, and that really should be where we should be consistent on the road. I don’t know why.”
The Pistons will have Stanley Johnson back for this game, after he missed a game because of suspension. Andre Drummond, who missed the first meeting of the season between these two teams, will be in the starting line-up, coming off a game where he had 16 point and 10 boards in a victory against the Los Angeles Clippers. Tobias Harris has finally started to live up to the expectations that were put on him when he signed his near max extension two seasons ago. He’s averaging 16.2 points and 4.6 rebounds, while being the Pistons’ best go-to player in Reggie Jackson’s absence. Marcus Morris forms the other half of the Pistons’ unique forward combination that has been a perplexing puzzle for teams to solve. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been hot of late, averaging 21.3 points per game on 50% shooting from deep in the last 3 games.
- Cameron Payne (foot)
3 Big Things1. Put an entire game together
The script has been about the same for the past two weeks. Fall behind early, come back at halftime to make the deficit manageable. Fall behind by double digits again heading into the 4th quarter. Make a furious charge to have a chance at winning the game, only to (usually) fall short at the end. Something has to give if the Thunder are going to break this script.2. Protect the Paint
The Thunder lost in large part against the Pistons last time because they would outscored in the paint 60-44. Again, that was without the services of Jackson and Drummond. With Drummond back in the mix, that number could be in the same range if the Thunder don’t do a good job of stopping dribble penetration. Fortunately for the Thunder, Steven Adams usually does a good job of defending Drummond, as he is one of only a few guys in the league that can match him in brute force and athleticism.3. We were cheated
Because this series was finished so early in the season, we, fans, were cheated from a Russell Westbrook vs. Reggie Jackson rematch. The animosity between these two is very evident and both players want nothing more than for their teams to come out victorious while they are on the floor.