Thunder (46-22, 19-13 road) vs. 76ers (9-59, 6-28 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 6:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.8 (2nd), 76ers – 96.2 (30th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.8 (12th), 76ers – 106.5 (25th)
The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently in a good place right now. They are moving the ball around, playing better all-around defense, and protecting the ball. Maybe that 12-game nightmare stretch toughened them up. Maybe, like they’ve been saying all along, they like how they’ve been playing, but just haven’t gotten the results they always wanted. Or maybe, it’s a combination of both of those things.
I liken the Thunder at this point to a person just getting over a rut. Be it a relationship rut, a personal rut, or a work rut, we’ve all either known someone or have been that person in the rut. The best feeling in the world is when you know that you are finally getting over that slump. Foods taste better. Sunshines are brighter. The color palate of life gets the HD treatment to it. The confidence meter jumps up to levels unseen during the slump. In other words, things start to look up.
The Thunder have been through an extremely traumatic past month. They have faced deaths to key members of the Thunder family. They’ve seen two of their assistant coaches go down with family issues (Monty Williams) and health issues (Mo Cheeks). They’ve had their place in the NBA questioned due to an extremely tough stretch. And, to compound all that, they’ve honestly played some pretty bad ball.
But all it takes is a flicker; maybe a wake-up call. The Minnesota loss at home was probably that wake-up call. That was probably the equivalent of the bottom of the barrel for a championship contending NBA team. They probably did a little soul-searching after that loss. They still ended up losing their next game against the Spurs, but that is to be expected against another championship level team that is playing undefeated ball at home. In the two games after though, they’ve come out like the team we’ve all expected them to be. Will it continue? We shall see.
This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Sixers. The Thunder won the first meeting 102-85 in a game that was not completely decided until the middle part of the fourth quarter. The Thunder were without Kevin Durant in that game.
The Sixers come into this game with a 9-59 record, having lost 16 of their last 17 games. The Sixers’ season can be broken down into two eras: BIS (Before Ish Smith) and AIS (After Ish Smith). Eight of the Sixers’ nine victories have come with Smith directing the offense. It’s quite amazing that he isn’t being considered for MVP, because this team would likely be struggling to reach the 9-win mark without him.
With Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes out, Nerlens Noel has responded in the last 5 games with 14.8 points, 2.8 blocks, and 9.6 rebounds per game. Jerami Grant has returned back into the lineup after suffering a concussion about a week ago. Three-point specialist Robert Covington will be out for this game with a concussion. Isaiah Canaan, Hollis Thompson, TJ McConnell, and Nik Stauskas round out the wing rotation for the Sixers. The Sixers have absolutely no interior depth and will likely play small the entire game.
3 Big Things1. Big Men
A lot like the Portland game, this is sizing up to be a game where one of or both of Enes Kanter and Steven Adams will likely get double-doubles. The Sixers lack big man depth past Noel and be on a huge disadvantage on the boards.2. Limit the Turnovers
Nothing gives a struggling, young team hope like their opponent committing turnovers in bunches. Young usually equals athletic, and Philly is definitely one of the teams that likes to convert an opponents’ turnovers into points quickly. Limit the turnovers like they’ve been doing the past 2 games, and this games should be easily in the bag by the end of the third quarter.3. Dion’s Homecoming
Dion Waiters is from Philly. He’s had a rough couple of weeks. It’s actually a good thing that we are playing in Philly today. Hopefully this lends a little closure to a rough chapter in Dion’s life and he is able to play on from here.
Hollis Thompson – I could see the Sixers playing Thompson at the 4, and Ibaka getting lost trying to keep up with the 3-point marksman.