Preview 28 of 82: Thunder @ Sixers
Time: 6:00 PM CT
TV: ESPN / Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
Game Notes: Thunder
The Thunder (13-14) has won five out of its last seven games but somehow it feels like team has been on a 27-game losing streak. Wednesday night’s win against the Indiana Pacers was great for team morale, but it definitely wasn’t pretty and it almost featured yet another fourth-quarter collapse.
ESPN has the Thunder as a 1.5-point underdog tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers (14-13), which is really just putting salt in the wound at this point (thanks, ESPN). That being said, tonight’s game is a perfect opportunity for the Thunder to come out with a solid team-win against a formidable opponent. The Sixers are led by center Joel Embiid (listed as questionable with a back injury) and rookie star Ben Simmons.
- Andre Roberson: Active — Ankle
- Joel Embiid: Questionable — Back
- Markelle Fultz: Out – Shoulder
- Robert Covington: Active — Back
Dre Back. Per Royce Young, Andre Roberson will return from a two game absence and be in the starting lineup for the Thunder tonight. He’s expected to be on a minutes restriction.
Bench Contribution. In Wednesday’s win against the Pacers, the Thunder’s most effective lineup was Raymond Felton, Terrance Ferguson, Jerami Grant, Josh Huestis, and Patrick Patterson — outscoring the Pacers 26-17 in 10 minutes. This obviously isn’t what we want, but improving the OK3’s shooting percentage (combined 22 percent on Wednesday) should be much easier than creating a productive bench. Furthermore, the Sixers don’t have a very convincing second unit, so the Thunder bench could really be the difference tonight.
Adams’ MIP Candidacy (Sort Of). Through 27 games, Steven Adams is demanding to be taken seriously. So far he’s averaging career-highs in field goal percentage (64.9%), rebounds (8.7), and points per game (14). He’s second in the league in offensive rebounds (behind Andre Drummond) and boasts the highest PER on the Thunder roster (21.4). If Adams wasn’t on a team with Russ, PG, and Melo and if players like Oladipo and Porzingis didn’t exist, he might have a shot at being in the Most Improved Player conversation. Regardless, if Adams can put up numbers like this against Embiid (arguably the top center in the league) tonight, he deserves to be recognized as a top center in the league, as well.
More Abrines Threes Please. Andre Roberson will return to the starting lineup tonight, but hopefully that doesn’t mean Alex Abrines falls by the wayside. Abrines has really come into his own during his short stint in the starting five and the team’s overall ball movement has improved as a result. There’s an argument to be made for keeping Abrines in the starting five (better floor spacing, ball movement, faster offense), but doing so would come at the expense of the team defense. Even if Abrines doesn’t start, Donovan should continue to use him as a means for drawing defenders away from the OK3 and generating more offense.
Fourth Quarter Finish. The Thunder has not been great in the fourth quarter but things may be looking up. OKC’s first nine clutch time scenarios resulted in one win, eight losses, a 99.2 offensive rating and a 147.7 defensive rating (worst in the league). In OKC’s last seven clutch time scenarios there have been five wins, two losses, a 102.9 offensive rating, and a 78.3 defensive rating (massive improvement). The Thunder currently sit at 8th in the Western Conference, but they are only 1.5 games behind 5th place. If the Thunder can improve their fourth-quarter performances, it could make a huge difference for team morale and our playoff chances. It will also significantly reduce the amount of absolute heartbreak I have to endure each week. Shout out to Jon Hamm for the stats.
Defending JoJo & Ben. Joel Embiid leads the 76ers with 23.7 PPG, 11.1 RPG and shoots 48.7 percent from the floor. His running mate Ben Simmons is equally impressive with a 17.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 7.7 APG stat line. They will test the Thunder defense mightily.
History on the Thunder’s Side. Philadelphia hasn’t beaten the Thunder since 2008 — making it 16 consecutive wins for OKC.