|2012-2013 NBA Season|
|January 2nd, 2012|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|7:00 PM CST|
|Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, The Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network|
|WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), Sports Radio 660 AM|
|NetsDaily, The Brooklyn Game|
|Previous Meetings: Dec 4th (Thunder Lead Season Series 1-0)|
|Deron Williams||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Joe Johnson||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Gerald Wallace||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Reggie Evans||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Brook Lopez||C||Kendrick Perkins|
If you're young or have recently started following the Thunder, let me clue you in to the context surrounding this game. A long, long time ago, back in 2008, the Seattle Supersonics were a disaster. Years of atrocious salary management and terrible draft picks had led the team to basketball ruin, and Sam Presti had only begun to unwind the sting. The roster was a collection of failed draft picks, NBA journeymen, left-over role players, and a few young prospects known as Jeff Green, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook.
The coach at this time was P.J. Carlesimo. He'd been an NBA coach in the past, but aside from a mediocre stint in Portland, he had been most notable for getting choked by Latrell Sprewell and coaching terrible teams to terrible records. Many thought he was more suited to the college game, because of his unrelenting screams during games and hard work during practices.
His solution to make the Thunder roster win was to play big. And by playing big, I mean playing big. The 6'10" Durant played shooting guard, while the shorter Jeff Green played small forward. Nick Collison, Johan Petro, and Earl Watson rounded out the starting lineup. To his credit, it was hard to have a lineup with both Durant and Green, who are both natural small forwards without much versatility.
But the result was some of the most boring basketball ever played. The team averaged 90 points in the Carlesimo era, which would have been good for dead last in the NBA that year. The team was frequently beaten by double digits, and it was clear that players started losing focus and ignoring the coach. After seven straight losses by 10 points or more and a 25 point beatdown by the Hornets at home, Carlesimo was fired, and Scott Brooks was named as his replacement.
In short, the Carlesimo era in Oklahoma City can pretty much be summed up by the following image.
Yet, despite all of this, P.J. Carlesimo is easily my favorite coach of all-time. You can read about that here. And to see him come back is kind of odd. He wasn't here long enough to make Thunder fans despise him, and most probably don't even remember his name. But he is still an essential part of Thunder history, and he'll most definitely be looking for vengeance tonight.
The Nets haven't changed radically under Carlesimo though, so we can probably expect more of the same from them when they arrive in OKC. Last time, both teams had some fantastic offense going, and the Nets were able to push the Thunder to the brink. They didn't shoot as well as the Thunder, but they dominated the offensive boards and were able to make up for their so-so percentages. The only downside was that their runs took a long time to happen, while the Thunder's runs would strike quickly and lead to an easy advantage.
However, they did have a disastrous run-in with the Spurs, in which they scored only 5 points in the fourth quarter and prompted the Nets to start calling Phil Jackson again. When you shoot 37% from the floor with 18 turnovers and only 17 free throws, it's going to be a long night. So it's hard to say whether they'll be up and inspired for this game. But Gerald Wallace will likely be returning from a knee injury, so he might provide some sort of morale boost or additional defense.
You can also point to Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans, who were both absent during the Nets last encounter with the Thunder. If the Nets are able to use these guys instead of Mirza Teletovic, it could lead to total rebounding domination. But when you get right down to it, I don't think the Nets will be able to dominate the offensive boards like they did then, and they'll probably rely too much on their three point shooting. If they can limit their turnovers and take advantage of the Thunder's pressure defense, then I could see the Nets winning this game. But with the disaster that this team has been lately and their lack of defensive communication, I just don't see it happening.
But hay! With P.J., anything is possible.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 108, Brooklyn Nets 99.