Thunder (7-game winning streak)
106.4 Offensive Efficiency (5th)
100.5 Defensive Efficiency (16th)
+5.9 Differential (5th)
94.1 Pace (15th)
Wizards (8-game losing streak)
90.0 Offensive Efficiency (last)
103.4 Defensive Efficiency (24th)
-13.4 Differential (last)
95.8 Pace (24th)
The Thunder travel to take on the team with the worst record in the NBA. I would say this game could have the potential for a possible letdown by the Thunder but this isn’t last year. Oklahoma City is hungrier this year and more consistent. I don’t see them taking anyone lightly no matter what. They want to win every game and we shouldn’t expect to see the starters in the final eight minutes of this one.
Thunder keys to the game
An easy way to let a young athletic team that you should dominate hang around is not hustling and getting enough rebounds. The Wizards are a half decent team when it comes to getting offensive rebounds (11.3 per game) so the Thunder need to be ready for that. JaVale McGee is one of the best in the league at scoring off those misses (0.93 PPP) and that is really the only way in which he is efficient on offense. McGee is shooting less than 40 percent from the post this season so Kendrick Perkins should have no trouble containing him. There’s just no reason to give him a reason to have extra confidence with easy putbacks. So take it easy with the shot blocking attempts Serge Ibaka and maybe just focus on boxing out.
2. Don’t let the Wizards run
The Thunder don’t like to play the fastest pace in the league anyway and one of the only ways that the Wizards are efficient on offense is when on the break. John Wall (32 percent of his offense comes in transition) and Jordan Crawford (shooting 65 percent in transition) in particular can fill it up with space in transition but are much more inefficient when it comes to the half court. Wall is shooting just 35 percent as the pick-and-roll ball handler this season and is 0-for-7 from three-point land. And let the Wizards throw it into Andray Blatche in the post. He says he wants the ball more down there but he is shooting just 23.5 percent in the post.
3. Don’t fall in love with the three
The Thunder took out the Celtics last game with a barrage of three-pointers late in the fourth quarter. They don’t need to think that is one of their greatest strengths when playing the Wizards. I’m talking to you Russell Westbrook. It was hard to get into the paint and get looks against the Celtics but it won’t be that tough when you’re playing the Wizards (even vs. McGee who is leading the NBA with 3.15 blocks per game). This will also be a good game to have Kevin Durant practice more of his high-post isolation play, including his stepback-Dirk imitation. Durant is shooting 50 percent from the post this season.
Prediction: Oklahoma City wins 99-87