Preview 24 of 82: Thunder @ Nets
Time: 9:00 PM CT
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
Winners of three straight, the Oklahoma City Thunder enters tonight’s game with the Brooklyn Nets looking to get back to .500 for the first time since November 17. Carrying an 11-12 record into the showdown in Mexico City, the Thunder will be without Paul George and Jerami Grant — both sitting out due to injury.
Predicted by many to be at the bottom of the NBA, the Nets have a 9-14 record and have exceeded expectations with their uptempo style of play. Without top scorer D’Angelo Russell, the Nets will look to its stable of role players to lead the attack against the Thunder. Even in the absence of Russell, Brooklyn has six men currently averaging double-figures in scoring.
Tip-off is at 9:00 PM CT from Mexico City Arena. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
- Paul George: Out — Calf
- Jerami Grant: Out — Hip
- DeAngelo Russell: Out — Knee
- Jeramy Lin: Out — Knee
Nets Starting Five: Spencer Dinwiddie, Allen Crabbe, Demarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Tyler Zeller
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Mexico City. Although the Nets are technically listed as the home team, both squads are a long way from home in this one. Mexico City Arena holds a capacity of about 22,000 and figures to contain a large crowd for Thunder/Nets. The location has become a popular destination in professional sports, as each league continues its pursuit of greater international appeal. Just today a report from the New York Times suggests the NBA may put a G-League franchise south of the border as early as next season.
Way, Way Up. Neither team will enjoy home court advantage — in fact, just the opposite. As Mexico City sits nearly 7,400 feet above sea level, the altitude could become a problem for both rosters. The NBA’s closest comparison is Denver, which has an elevation of 5,280. Managing the fatigue involved with such a drastic change will be paramount on both sides.
The Injury Bug. The Thunder has remained relatively healthy to start the 2017-18 campaign, but will be without Paul George and Jerami Grant tonight. George is dealing with a right calf contusion — the same injury that cost Steven Adams three games earlier in the season. Jerami Grant is sidelined with a left hip contusion, leaving Billy Donovan without one of his favorite bench weapons. The starting lineup and rotational changes will be interesting to watch, as Donovan shed no light on his plans during the morning media session. Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony will likely get as many field goal attempts as they please.
Slowing The Nets. Despite the losing record, Brooklyn has the fifth-best scoring offense in the NBA at 109.8 points per contest. Look for the Nets to attack with an uptempo style of play that will try to exploit a Thunder defense missing Paul George. The Nets currently have the third-highest pace in the league with nearly 105 possessions per game — a stat that may become even more important if the elevation wears on a shorter OKC rotation. The Thunder is 27th in the league in transition defense according to Synergy Sports. If the Nets can take advantage, it could remain close.
Trade News. Trevor Booker is averaging 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds for the Nets this season, but likely just got some interesting news from the team hotel in Mexico City. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, Brooklyn has agreed to send him to Philadelphia in exchange for Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a second round draft pick. The Nets should be improved in the long run, but will need to fill a hole in the rotation versus OKC, as Booker averaged roughly 22 minutes per game off the bench.
Feeding The Big Man. Steven Adams has averaged 22 points on 82 percent shooting over the last three games — looking dominant and comfortable in the process. The Nets are below average at defending post-ups, poor at defending the roll man in PnR situations, and will rely on Tyler Zeller in hopes of slowing Adams down. With extra shots to go around in the absence of Paul George, expect another healthy dose of Adams in this one.
Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson discuss playing in Mexico City. Via OKC Thunder.