GameThread at 6, be there!
Time: 6:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network Washington
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), WJFK Sportsradio 106.7 The Fan
Going by records alone, this is the most lop-sided matchup that you can have in the NBA right now. The Thunder have the NBA's best record at 12-2 with a league leading 7 game winning streak. The Wizards, on the other hand, have the NBA's worst record at 1-12 and are in the midst of a dismal 4 game losing streak.
Is there a point to previewing this game? Well, I've been embarrassed by predicting a blowout when we played the Nets last year, and I won't let that happen again. So let's start out this preview by taking a look at what the Wizards are good at.
One thing I noticed early was more weakside movement. On one play at the seven-minute mark, Chris Singleton cut through the middle on a JaVale McGee post up, preventing the Raptors from doubling McGee once he dribbled. McGee used that attention to make a strong up and under move on Andrea Bargnani for a layup. Weakside cutting is important even when the cutters don't get the ball because it occupies the defense long enough to give the man with the ball a better opportunity to catch his defender off-balanced.
I know, it looks like I was lazy and just copy/pasted the first thing in his recap. But this is important, because the Thunder are terrible at defending weakside movement. When an opposing player is in the post, the Thunder usually pressure him if he's a big guy, or let Perkins/Ibaka come in for help defense if he's a smaller guy driving the lane. I don't think JaVale McGee would be able to dominate Ibaka or Perk like he did to Bargnani in that game. But if he could draw attention to himself and know where his teammates are, it could lead to some easy points.
Another strength of the Wizards is their guards, Nick Young and John Wall. I use the term "strength" loosely, because they're as much a "strength" as getting a quesadilla from Taco Bell is a guarantee of a filling meal. You know what I'm talking about. There's certain dishes that Taco Bell can't mess up, like tacos. But the quasadillas are a mixed bag. Sometimes you'll get it perfect, with adequate cooking in all four sectors of the quesadilla and an even distribution of ingredients. But other times, you'll get all of the meat and cheese squashed and undercooked into one sector, the other inner sector full of jalapeno sauce, and the outer two sectors consisting of nothing but burnt tortilla. Nick Young and John Wall are the same way. Sometimes, they can go off for fantastic offensive performances, like Wall's 38 points against Houston or Young's 27 points against Philadelphia. Their good performances never seem to coincide, and when one guy isn't playing particularly well, he'll force the issue by jacking up at least 10 shots without getting to the line. So most of the time, these guys come out like one of those bad quesadillas. Some parts are good, but on the whole you just really wish you had ordered something else. But if they happen to gel....man, is that quesadilla good.
I'd also keep an eye on Trevor Booker tonight. He's not a huge contributor to the Wizards on most nights, but the last time we played them he was especially good at hurting us with the backdoor cut. Shawn Marion did it to us at key times during the Western Conference Finals, and it's the type of play that can keep the defense guessing.
Lastly, I'd like to say that if the Wizards want to stay in this game for a long period of time, they should focus on rebounding. The Thunder only had one offensive board two nights ago against the Celtics, and it was the main reason the C's were able to stay in the game while throwing up bricks. With the size of the Wizards, it's certainly possible.
Still, the Wizards are the Wizards. They have a hard time scoring, and they've only had two good defensive performances this season. If the Thunder play the flawed game they did against the Celtics, they should still win this one pretty easily. In other words, you should be able to make your late night Taco Bell run by the mid-fourth quarter, at least.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 94, Washington Wizards 78