This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 8:30 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, ESPN
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Backstory: Well, it's that time of year again. Everybody has loaded up on Turkey, I'm ready to go buy discounted video games like some sort of crazed mad man, and the Thunder are getting ready to take on the hot hot Bucks on National Television. Wait, what was that third one?
That's right, the Thunder are on National Television. After an impressive 8-7 start, ESPN finally considers them to be hot material, at least, hotter than a blowout matchup between the Suns and Timberwolves. And rightfully so. This matchup, in an national perspective, could be seen as a proving ground for both teams. Both are playoff teams right now, which nobody expected at the start of the season. And both are probably not considered to be long-term success teams. That is, most are expecting them to fall into the lottery by the time the season is over. So, who's expected to win?
To be honest, they should expect us to win. The Bucks do have a better record, but their wins have only come over Detroit, Minnesota, Denver, Golden State, New Jersey, Charlotte, and Memphis. Aside from the win against Denver, they've pretty much won against all of the NBAs current doormats. And their losses don't look that much more impressive, with losses to the sub-.500 76ers, Bulls, and Hornets, with the only other losses coming to the struggling Spurs and the rather good Mavericks. Thus, if you put it all together, the only good teams they've played have been Denver and the Mavericks. They've visited almost every non-playoff team in the East (besides the Wizards) and almost every non-playoff team in the West (besides the Clippers, Kings, and Jazz). Now, I'm not saying that the Bucks continuing their run of success in the weaker East isn't possible, I'm just saying that this team isn't the powerhouse we thought they were. Combine that with the loss of Andrew Bogut and possible loss of Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, and you have one giant over-hyped sandwich.
On our side of things, things feel much more real. We're coming off of a huge wins in Utah and Miami, with a more minor win against the Wizards and losses against the Magic and Lakers. All of that doesn't look bad on paper, but it covers up our past losses to teams like the Clippers and Kings. If we can win this game, it will put us at 2 games above .500, and in a very good position moving forward. Thus, this game will decide, on a national stage, whether we are just another bad team having a good early season run, or whether we really are ready for the playoffs.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Dan Gadzuric
Ah, the Bucks resident backup Center, Dan Gadzuric. He could double-double in this game, if he gets enough minutes in which to do so. However, I'm pretty sure Krstic will have the better scoring night, as no one knows Gadzuric as a defensive stalwart or anything.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Ersan Ilyasova
Ilyasova is a rare example of how going back to the Euroleague can help your game, He was drafted in 05, played only in the D-League, and then played only sparingly in 06-07. Since he wasn't happy with his situation, he went to play for F.C. Barcelona, averaged decent stats for two years, improved his game, and then came back to the Bucks, where he's now a rather successful Power Forward, averaging 10 Points, 7 Rebounds, and 1 Assist per game in only 22 minutes. Still, this is weaker matchup for Jeff Green, so if he can stay out of foul trouble, he should manage to put up good numbers, and can probably beat Ilyasova in every category.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Carlos Delfino
You read correctly, Carlos Delfino is indeed playing Small Forward. He went to play in Russia last year and averaged decent statistics, but Delfino is already a known quantity, so that only served to raise his stock and get him decent pay. Nevertheless, even though Delfino is a jack of all trades who will produce in every category, he will almost certainly be overpowered by Kevin Durant and scored upon many times.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Charlie Bell
Charlie Bell, at one point, was the worst shooter in the NBA. He's improved since, but he's not going to be a scoring threat any time soon. He'll fill up the intangibles, just as Thabo will, making this matchup a draw.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Brandon Jennings
And here is the matchup of the hour. Brandon Jennings is the super rookie who decided to play in Europe for a year, and, boy, has it paid off. He has averaged 23 Points, 5 Rebounds, and 6 Assists in his rookie campaign, all while sporting very stylish haircuts (I've seen him with the flat top, the faux-hawk, and whatever you call the badass hair-style he has now). If Scott Brooks is smart, he'll have Thabo defending this guy, because Russell Westbrook doesn't have a chance in hell of stopping him. Jennings wins this matchup easily, and I shudder to think what will happen if Mike Wilks is forced to step on the floor.
Battle of the Benches:
This is a complete waste of time. Even without Mbah A Moute and Bogut, the Bucks still have a much more powerful bench, containing former SuperSonic Luke Ridnour, former Raptors star Roko Ukic, former Grizzlies star Hakim Warrick, and Kurt Thomas. We have Harden, Etan Thomas, Collison.....and Mike Wilks. Oh yeah, they still have Michael Redd off the bench, too. I'd say they get the win.
Coaching and Intangibles:
The one intangible on the Thunders side to pay attention to is Mike Wilks. It's not know if we'll have to play him, but if we do, the situation could get drastic, especially against the amazing Brandon Jennings. On the Bucks side, it's not know if Michael Redd can return to his former scoring form yet. If he can, it would certainly create a dynamic duo of a back court, making our situation even more desperate. Where's Kyle Weaver when you need him?
The Bucks are like the Raptors of a couple of years ago. They signed foreign talent, combined it with what they had, and became a threat to win on any given night. But, the team is flawed. If Michael Redd can't find his stride, then Brandon Jennings is the only serious scorer on the roster. If Thabo shuts him down to an extent, we can get an easy win. But, if they can get both of their scorers going and have another X-Factor step up, then we're screwed. Also, watch Mike Wilks. If he plays, he could be a huge liability when defending Brandon Jennings. Hopefully, it won't come to that.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 110, Milwaukee 105
Sorry, Bucks fans. I think we've got this one in the bag. Too bad the game is on the worst sports broadcaster of all time.
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. I'll be in the Ford Center cheering the team on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. Go Thunder!