Preview 8 of 82: Thunder @ Wizards
Time: 7:00 PM CST
TV: ESPN/Fox Sports Oklahoma
After last night’s eventful win over the Charlotte Hornets, the Thunder (3-4) are officially on a winning streak after starting the season 0-4. Tonight, the Thunder will face a dysfunctional Washington Wizards (1-6) team that is dealing with serious team chemistry and defensive issues. Hopefully, the Thunder can carry their momentum from last night’s game into this one and keep their streak alive.
Tip-off is at 7:00 PM CST and will be televised on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Wizards are 2.5-point home favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Markieff Morris: Questionable – Concussion
Wizards: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, Dwight Howard
What to Watch For
All Abrines. The highlight of last night’s game was clearly Alex Abrines, who posted a career-high 25 points and nailed five threes to spark the comeback win for OKC. Abrines has always shown small flashes of sharp-shooting but has never been a reliable option for OKC – especially on the defensive end. However, last night, Abrines was impactful on both ends. The Thunder were -5.1 with Abrines off the floor, but +3.7 with him on (the 2nd best on/off rating after Westbrook). Additionally, the lineup of Westbrook/Schröeder/Abrines/George/Adams posted an offensive rating of 145.8 and a defensive rating of 66.7. With every passing game that Abrines and Diallo surpass expectations, it becomes increasingly difficult to defend Donovan’s decision to start Ferguson.
PG’s Problems. Paul George, on the other hand, had an uncharacteristically bad night against the Hornets. After scoring at least 20 points in each of the Thunder’s first six games, George finished with only 11 points on 4-of-20 shooting and 0-of-10 from three. After the game, he mentioned to the media that he’s been experiencing peroneal nerve palsy in his left foot. Peroneal nerve palsy most commonly results from compression of the fibular nerve located on the outer side of the calf and results in numbness and partial or incomplete ability to lift the foot (“drop foot”). If the compression is minimal (as it appears to be in George’s case since he plans to play through it), specific physical therapy techniques, ankle braces, or orthotics can be used to lessen compression on the nerve and reduce numbness. There is a surgical method for relieving fibular nerve compression, but there’s no indication from George or the Thunder medical staff that he needs surgery.
Howard in the House. Wizards center, Dwight Howard, is making his season debut against the Thunder after being sidelined with a gluteal muscle injury. His return comes as a great relief to the Wizards, who are currently being outrebounded by 12.1 rebounds per game, allowing opponents 13 offensive rebounds per game and giving up a league-worst 122.4 points per game. Howard averaged 12.5 rebounds per game last season with the Hornets. His return will certainly make things more difficult for Adams and Noel, but both bigs have been terrific for the Thunder thus far.
Holding the Lead. The Thunder eventually closed out last night’s game against the Hornets, but not after falling into a 19-point deficit. We’ve seen this behavior more than once this season from OKC (specifically versus the Clippers and Celtics) and it’s a habit they need to fix now. The problem stems mostly from all-around poor shooting as a team, especially from three, which will hopefully sort itself out soon. The Thunder are shooting 26.5 percent from three this season compared to 35.4 percent last season. To make matters worse, between John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter, Jr., the Wizards could create big problems behind the arc for OKC tonight. The Wizards shot 40 percent from three in their game against the Grizzlies on Tuesday.