Thunder (12-3) at Nets (4-11), 8:00 p.m. EST tip

Thunder (1-game losing streak)
105.7 Offensive Efficiency (3rd)
100.5 Defensive Efficiency (18th)
+5.2 Differential (7th)
94.8 Pace (11th)

Nets (1-game winning streak)
100.4 Offensive Efficiency (13th)
110.0 Defensive Efficiency (last)
-9.6 Differential (26th)
92.1 Pace (25th)

The Wizards shocked the Thunder with the upset two nights ago. They caught the Thunder sleeping as the game was a matchup between first and worst in terms of record in the league. I wrote before the game that the Thunder were a team that cared about winning every night they play this year. After a disappointing loss last game, expect an inspired and focused Thunder team tonight versus another team they should beat easily, the New Jersey Nets. This is the Thunder’s third straight game on the road and they’ve noticed a drop off in their bench production, especially James Harden who is averaging just 9.0 points per game and shooting less than 33 percent from the floor the past two games.

Thunder keys to the game

1. Rebounding…again

The Wizards killed the Thunder on the offensive glass last game with 19 rebounds and that was a big reason why the Thunder lost. The Nets are too a very good team on the offensive glass led by Kris Humphries. Humphries accounts for 27 percent of New Jersey’s 12.3 offensive rebounds per game this season. The Thunder are going to need to be aware of where Humphries is every time a shot goes up if they want to prevent the same fate they suffered last game from occurring again.

2. Take advantage of your stars on offense

The Thunder always have an advantage with their Big Three against anyone they play but they definitely do tonight versus the Nets. The Nets are last in the league when it comes to defense yielding 0.98 PPP. They are especially bad defending the pick-and-roll and isolation plays, two areas where the Thunder get most of their offense. Kevin Durant (0.98 PPP) and Russell Westbrook (1.07 PPP) are two of the best in the league at scoring on isolation plays this season. They got caught up relying too much on Durant and Westbrook last game versus the Wizards so it will be important for Harden to bounce back tonight. The Nets are second-worst in the NBA defending the pick-and-roll and Harden is an elite player when it comes to scoring in the pick-and-roll with a 0.97 PPP. Westbrook has been better of late but still is struggling more than he should in the pick-and-roll this season with a 0.66 PPP.

3. Defensive rotations and closing out on the three

The Nets aren’t one of the better teams in the league overall but when it comes to offense in the pick-and-roll and knocking down threes they are one of the better NBA teams. New Jersey gets 25.6 percent of their offense from spot-up shooting. Led by Deron Williams whose the fifth best scorer in the pick-and-roll in the NBA, the Nets will always have a chance to score points in the league. Williams is surrounded in New Jersey by a few pretty good spot-up shooters in Mehmet Okur and Anthony Morrow. Okur has made 15-of-37 (40%) spot-up threes this season and Morrow 26-of-62 (42%). Rookie MarShon Brooks has also been a nice surprise for the Nets this season. He is the eighth best isolation player in the league and eleventh best pick-and-roll player in terms of efficiency. The Nets have shown that they can have success on offense this season and still lose because of their putrid defense. On Jan. 11, they lost to the Denver Nuggets despite making 20-of-35 three-pointers in the game.

Prediction: Oklahoma City wins 102-98

 

Andrew Kennedy is an Editor for ThunderousIntentions.com. Follow him on Twitter @akennedy41 or read more of his NBA analysis at True Hoop Drew.

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Tags: James Harden Kevin Durant Russell Westbrook

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