|2012-2013 NBA Season|
|March 27th, 2013|
|Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma|
|7 PM Central Daylight Time|
|Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network Middle-Atlantic|
|WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), 106.7 The Fan|
|Bullets Forever, Truth About It, Wizards Extreme, Wiz of Awes|
|Previous Meetings: Jan 7th (Wizards Lead Season Series 1-0)|
|Injury Report: Leandro Barbosa (Out), A.J. Price (Out), Bradley Beal (Out), Nene Hilario (Questionable), Martell Webster (Questionable), Trevor Ariza (Probable)|
|John Wall||PG||Russell Westbrook|
|Trevor Ariza||SG||Thabo Sefolosha|
|Trevor Booker||SF||Kevin Durant|
|Chris Singleton||PF||Serge Ibaka|
|Emeka Okafor||C||Kendrick Perkins|
There's one team the Thunder have failed to beat this season, and that's the Miami Heat. I'm sure they don't intend on making the Wizards the second team to hold that honor.
Still, the Wizards do stand a chance of sweeping the series tonight. Part of the reason they were able to do so well against the Thunder was their defensive prowess, and that's still very much there. They keep opponents scoring the 7th lowest points per game out of anybody in the NBA, and Garrett Temple was able to force a horrific shooting performance out of Russell Westbrook last time. If they can continue to keep Russ out of the paint and make him force shots at the top of the key, we could very well see a repeat of his performance.
Moreover, the Wizards have some great offensive advantages. All of their bigs scored above their averages against the Thunder last time they played, and were able to dominate the boards during certain portions of the game. Okafor shot over the slower Perkins, Seraphin was able to work Ibaka into the paint, and Jan Vesely was able to sneak in for open layups, taking advantage of pressure. On the perimeter, the Wiz were able to take advantage of the Thunder's pressure as well. Webster, who nailed four threes while KD sagged, is questionable for tonight, but as long as they have a shooter on the floor, the advantage is there.
Also, let's not forget. The Wizards are 6-2 over their last 8 games. They just came off of a win over Memphis, and even with Marc Gasol out, it's an impressive win. The Wizards were able to shut down the Grizzlies secondary offensive options, and they let John Wall go off for 47 points. I doubt he replicates against the Thunder, but what happened against the Wizards reinforces what the Thunder have to do tonight.
They need to push the pace. Don't let the Wizards pound it inside and work you in the post, where their true scoring options are. Force them to rely on their inexperienced wings, and let them take their outside shots. As long as the paint is controlled defensively, the Thunder can pressure on the perimeter all they want and force turnovers. And yes, this means that we should play some Hasheem Thabeet. The Wizards will play big, and the Thunder have to match up. If they don't, then the Wizards will rebound well and control the pace of the game.
It should be a good game, and I wouldn't be embarrassed to see it go down to the wire. But as good as the Wizards are, they're a flawed team. They don't have a lot of true offensive options, especially without Beal, they turn over the ball way too often, and their bigs camp in the paint. As long as the Thunder can tailor their strategy appropriately, this game should be in hand when the final seconds come.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 100, Washington Wizards 95.
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