Preview 43 of 82: Thunder @ Hawks
Time: 6:30 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
The Oklahoma City Thunder (26-16) are on the road in Atlanta tonight, taking on Trae Young and the Hawks (13-30) at State Farm Arena. The Thunder remain third in the Western Conference despite going 5-5 over their last 10 games and 1-3 last week. The Hawks are struggling in a rebuilding year and will welcome back Dennis Schroder this evening. The Thunder backup point guard spent four seasons with Atlanta before being traded to Oklahoma City last offseason.
Tip-off is at 6:30 PM CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 8.5-point road favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Alex Abrines: Out — Personal
- Nerlens Noel: Out — Concussion
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- John Collins: Probable — Ankle
- Taurean Prince: Probable — Illness
- Jeremy Lin: Doubtful — Illness
- Kent Bazemore: Out — Ankle
- Dewayne Dedmon: Out — Ankle
- Miles Plumlee: Out — Knee
Hawks: Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, DeAndre’ Bembry, John Collins, Omari Spellman
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What to Watch For
Taking Care of Business. The Thunder beat Atlanta 124-109 in their first matchup on November 30, riding 23 points, nine rebounds, and 10 assists from Russell Westbrook to victory. The Thunder shot 18-of-31 (43.9 percent) from long range and held Trae Young to nine points on 4-of-15 shooting. This Hawks team isn’t very good and OKC should take care of business on the road, just as they did at home earlier this season.
Schroder’s Return. Schroder was dealt to OKC in the Melo trade over the offseason and the 25-year-old is averaging 15.3 points and 4.4 assists in his debut season with the Thunder. He broke out of a recent slump on Saturday against the Spurs, scoring 19 points (all in the second half) to propel the Thunder to a 122-112 victory. It’ll be interesting to see how the Atlanta crowd welcomes him this evening. Not expecting PG-in-LA level boos…. but there will almost certainly be some.
Baby Splash Bros. Should the Hawks surprise the Thunder and make this one interesting, it will likely be a result of strong performances from the starting backcourt of Trae Young and Kevin Huerter. They combined for 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting against OKC on November 30 — but have been playing better ball as of late. In six January games, Young is averaging 16.7 points and 6.8 assists on 36.1 percent shooting from long range. For his part, Huerter is putting up 14.3 points on 30.6 percent from deep in the new year. If the Thunder can bottle them up on the perimeter (hello, Terrance), the Hawks will presumably struggle.
Pushing the Pace. No one in the NBA plays a faster brand of basketball than the Hawks, as they lead the league with 105.49 possessions per game. OKC isn’t far behind, ringing in fourth with a pace of 103.78. This game figures to be a bit of a track meet, as the Thunder are fourth in transition scoring at 17.6 PPG. Atlanta is close behind in fifth at 16.8 PPG.
Big Three. The Atlanta defense surrenders more points than any other defense in the league, coughing up 117.7 PPG to opposing offenses. Should the Thunder handle the Hawks as expected, big nights for Westbrook, Paul George, and Steven Adams figure to be a big part of that.
Big Kiwi discusses tonight’s matchup: