Philadelphia 76ers (15-18) vs. OKC Thunder (24-7) Preview

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder will look to bounce back from a loss for just the seventh time this season tonight as they take on the Philadelphia 76ers at home at 8 p.m. EST.

The 76ers have been a disappointment so far this season coming off a playoff appearance last year they’ve taken a step back. The biggest reason for that has to be Andrew Bynum’s absence from the team.

They do have an emerging star who could give the Thunder some trouble tonight though and that’s point guard Jrue Holiday. Holiday is playing at an All-Star level averaging 18.8 points and 9.0 assists per game this season. He’s been on a tear of late too that includes a triple-double in his last game vs. Phoenix.

Russell Westbrook will have his hands full containing Holiday who is 5th in the NBA scoring on isolation plays in terms of points per possession. Westbrook has really improved his defense this season but sometimes still has lapses on that end.

All eyes should be on Kevin Durant (as always) tonight because he is coming off his first ever ejection in the Thunder’s last game that they lost to the Brooklyn Nets at home. Frustration got the best of Durant late in that game and we can expect him to come out extra determined to have a big game tonight.

The 76ers have been starting a small lineup lately with Lavoy Allen at center and Thaddeus Young at power forward. That means Evan Turner or Jason Richardson will be checking Durant, either of which he should be able to torch.

The Thunder need to take advantage of Philly’s small lineup and hit the offensive glass early in this one. OKC got off to another slow start in their last game vs. Brooklyn because it has been so hard for them to get good looks with their starting unit. Misses with these five will be okay if they take advantage of their size up front.

As the game goes on, in this matchup the Thunder may go to their small lineup with Durant at the four more than usual. That is always a great thing for the Thunder who dominate their opponents with these lineups.

Turnovers will be a big key in this game as well. The Thunder are still the worst team in the league in this department but have had a game recently vs. Phoenix in which they only turned the ball over five times. The 76ers are one of the best teams in the league at taking care of the ball and if the Thunder can increase the pressure and get some steals, they will be well on their way to a victory.

The Thunder beat the 76ers in Philly in overtime this season on Nov. 24. Durant had 37 points and Westbrook had 30 points in the game. Kevin Martin struggled for OKC shooting just 2-for-9 from the field and finishing with six points.

Holiday had six points on 3-of-11 shooting for the 76ers but did rack up 13 assists. Young led the way with 29 points and 15 rebounds and Turner scored 26 points.

The Thunder have lost two in a row just once this season when they fell to Minnesota and Miami on the road in late December. Two straight home losses is something that isn’t in OKC’s vocabulary.

Topics: Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers

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