Game 31 Preview: Oklahoma City @ Washington

This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.

Time: 6:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: The Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia

TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Net Washington

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)

Enemy Blog(s): Bullets Forever, Agent Dagger, Truth About It

Backstory: Mr. Durant is going back to Washington. As he and Mr.Green, who is not a homosexual, both will be playing in front of their home crowd, they will undoubtedly be feeling some pressure. (FYI, I just made two movie references in two sentences. So if those sentences seem a bit odd, that's why.) But, since they're playing the lowly Wizards, it shouldn't be any more difficult than a normal game. Okay, the Wizards have won 3 of the last 5, but those wins have come against the Warriors, the 76ers, and the Bucks, whom have fallen back to Earth after their schedule suddenly got more difficult.

Mike Miller should be the only player out for the Wizards. Even though they have a mostly healthy lineup now, I don't see them advancing into the playoffs any time soon. You know why? Well, let me use a metaphor. Today, I tried to make a pizza from scratch, because it's too icy on my neighborhood road to go to the store. It was my second try. I prepared everything perfectly, and when it came out of the oven, it tasted horrible. Specifically, the crust. It was that way the last time as well. Know why? The yeast was dead. I should have known better than to cook with dead yeast, but I tried anyway, because I was desperate. It's the same situation for the Wizards. All of the pieces, and all of the talent is there. But you're only going to get so far with Gilbert Arenas at the helm. He gets injured too much, he doesn't distribute the ball well, and he takes bad shots. Kind of a like Baron Davis. He can get you to the playoffs maybe, but it'll be a miracle if you're kicking beyond the second round. So no matter how many times the wizards try to make that pizza, as long as they have dead yeast, the bread is gonna taste like crap. And there's the problem of having a team consisting entirely of swingmen and offensively inept centers, but that's a story for another day.

Below: Matchups, Prediction

Matchups:

Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Brendan Haywood

Brendan Haywood shouldn't pose much of a threat for Krstic. He's the better defender, but he's pretty inside-oriented, and his offense is pretty limited, especially next to all of the scoring swingmen on his team. I'd expect Krstic to keep his recent streak of good scoring nights alive against this sub-par opponent. Krstic performed a bit below expectations last time, but that's only due to the fact everybody else on the team scored for him. When called upon, he'll do his job here.

Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Antawn Jamison

Jeff Green should have a Dwight Howard like game here, grabbing lots of rebounds and getting lots of inside points against the undersized Jamison. Jamison will have a similar game, but with more scoring and less rebounding.

Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Caron Butler

As expected, both will have pretty similar stat lines. But when you boil down right to it, Caron Butler is like Kevin Durant-lite. He's the third wheel on his team, whereas Kevin Durant is the first wheel on his. KD will score more points and grab more rebounds.

Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Randy Foye

Randy Foye was a long overdue addition to the starting lineup for the Wizards. Many would say that they need defense in a lineup of mostly scorers. But, in my opinion, you need to go all the way if you're going to go that route, and the Wizards finally have agreed with my philosophy by putting Foye in. He hasn't been seen too much of this year, but expect him to be like any other Wizards player. A nice combo guard with a tendency for threes. I'd hope Thabo can shut him down, but with a small scoring lineup like this one, no one can tell, as defensive matchups rotate constantly. Expect Thabo's defense to be more evenly distributed against all scorers in this one.

Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Gilbert Arenas

They'll both have horribly flawed shooting nights with lots of freethrows, but I'd expect Westbrook to have more rebounds and assists.

Battle of the Benches:

The Wizards have a solid bench, with scorer Nick Young, solid backup big Andray Blatche, and awesome ball handler Earl Boykins. Still, I'd say the Thunder's is slightly better, with reliable big mean in Ibaka and Collison, a better scorer in Harden, and a better backup PG in Maynor. Mike James is rumoured to be back, but in truth, he's just Earl Boykins with more scoring and less handling. Also of note is Etan Thomas coming back to his old arena, but I doubt he sees the floor, especially against his basketball clone, Brendan Haywood.

Coaching and Intangibles:

The Thunder are on the 2nd game of a back to back, and on the road. Washington has been doing relatively well as of late. I'd say most intangibles are in their favour, but I don't think it will be enough to make a difference.

Bottom Line:

The key to winning a matchup like this is making sure that you get solid offensive production from most of your lineup while also making sure to shut down a scorer on the Wizards side of things. Randy Foye is the obvious choice, but he really isn't a main scorer for the Wizards. While his production should be kept down, I think the Thunder should keep focused on forcing Arenas into bad shots. Also, he's got the ball in his hands most of the time, so he's prone to lots of turnovers. To equalize this, Westbrook will have to take care of the ball. All in all, this is pretty routine stuff, and I'm confident they can handle this matchup on the road.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 127, Washington 117

I'm ready for some NBA Jam type scoring tonight! Hells yeah!

How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!

And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. Hopefully, I'll be along to drop my thoughts during the game as well. Go Thunder!

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