Time: 7:00 PM CT
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (27-20) enters tonight’s showdown with the Washington Wizards (26-21) on a five-game winning streak and a season-best seven games over .500. The Thunder is 19-8 since December 1 and 7-3 in the new year. Russell Westbrook is on the brink of averaging a triple-double at 24.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 10 assists per game. More importantly, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams appear to be growing more comfortable in their roles as the season progresses.
The Wizards have undershot preseason expectations, staggering to a 26-21 record thus far in the 2017-18 campaign. Despite boasting a pair of All-Star guards, Washington is just 5-5 over the last 10 games and dealing with some internal turmoil — they recently held a dreaded “team meeting” to discuss their slump. No matter, they have a great deal of offensive weaponry and are certainly capable of winning this one if the Thunder isn’t on point.
Tip-off is at 7:00 PM CT and will be televised on TNT. The Thunder is a 5.5-point favorite according to OddsShark.
- Sheldon Mac: Out — Achilles
Wizards: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat
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Thunder O & D
Wizards O & D
City Edition. The Thunder will be rocking the “City Edition” uniform against the Wizards, its first appearance of the season. For a quick refresher on what to expect:
Familiar Face. Scott Brooks returns to the ‘Peake as an opposing coach for the second time. The former Thunder head man has the Wizards at 26-21 and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Fans have been unhappy with the job he’s done and many have been calling for his firing. As he’s in the second season of a 5-year, $35 million contract, that seems unlikely.
All-Stars. The Wizards boast a back court composed of two men recently named to the All-Star roster: John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall is averaging 19.3 points and second in the NBA in assists (behind Westbrook) at 9.2 per game. Beal leads the team in scoring at 23.6 points on 36.8 shooting from downtown. Stopping those two will be no easy task and the focal point for the Thunder defense.
Defending the Three. Washington comes in as the sixth-best three-point shooting team in the NBA, carrying a 37 percent clip thus far in the 2017-18 season. The Thunder was torched from downtown by the Nets on Tuesday night, giving up 16 makes from long distance. Two guys to watch here (outside of Beal and Wall) are Otto Porter Jr. (42.6 percent) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (40 percent). Big man Mike Scott is also shooting 43 percent from deep.
Offensive Glass. The Wizards give up 10.2 offensive rebounds per game — tied for eighth-most in the association. The Thunder grabs 12.4 per contest — 5.1 from Steven Adams — and should be able to control that statistic in this one. Marcin Gortat is a serviceable big man but is slowing down at 33-years-old. Adams should eat plenty.
In Their Words. In David Brandon’s “Fraternizing with the Enemy” piece from earlier this week, Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated said Otto Porter Jr. will be the player to watch in this one:
“In general, if Otto plays well the Wizards become difficult to beat. Obviously, he can add another 18-20 points to whatever they get from Beal or Wall. But more importantly, if Otto’s scoring, it indicates that the ball is moving. Wall’s best when he drives and kicks, usually to Otto on the perimeter, instead of settling for jumpers. When that doesn’t happen, Wall and Beal are usually dominating the ball and the Wizards become much easier to guard. So watch Otto. His game is usually a good acid test for the Wizards offense.”
The love-fest between Paul George and Russell Westbrook continued today at the media session. Expounding on yesterday’s comments regarding his future, PG13 said of Russ: “He’s a team-first guy, he’s a really good dude, it’s great to be around guys like that … just somebody to enjoy this process with. That’s what makes it attractive being here, playing alongside Russ.” (Via Royce Young)