I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving.
The Oklahoma City Thunder wrap up their four game home-stand tonight as they take on the New York Knicks .Playing New York at home would seem like a relief, and it is definitely a much easier match up then playing almost every Western Conference team outside of possibly the Lakers, but the Thunder are 0-2 this year against Eastern Conference teams that are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, so nothing can be taken for granted at this point.
The big story today is one you've probably already heard. Russell Westbrook will return to the starting lineup tonight and provide the Thunder some much needed relief on the offensive side of the ball, as the Thunder currently sit at 29th in the NBA in scoring at 90.1 points per game.
Another point guard makes his return to Oklahoma tonight, but this time as a coach. First year head coach Derek Fisher will try to spoil Westbrook's return and guide his struggling New York Knicks to their fifth win of the season in the process.
If Fisher's Knicks are going to pull off the victory tonight, they will need to have a strong defensive outing, especially since Carmelo Anthony is expected to miss tonight's game with back spasms. The best way to stop this Thunder team is to limit Russell Westbrook's ability to impact the game as much as possible, which is a tall task for every team in the league.
If the Knicks are going to do that, they will need to get the ball out of his hands as much as they can, and make his teammates, specifically Jeremy Lamb beat them.
Lamb has struggled this year, so much so that he may sees his minutes diminished in a notable way due to Westbrook's return. He is shooting a sub par 39% from the field this year, and even though he did have a good outing against the Jazz Wednesday,scoring 21 points on seven for eight from the field. If you're Fisher, I think you force the ball into Lamb's hands and force him to make plays.
It's hard to see the Knicks being able to effectively implement such a game plan, considering that Jose Caledoron and Shane Larkin will have to check Westbrook at times tonight, though Iman Shumpert will likely spend the majority of his night guarding Westbrook. Also, if Shumpert and Calderon are in and Westbrook is also on the floor, that means Calderon has to check either Lamb, Reggie Jackson, or Anthony Morrow, all match-ups that would seem to favor the Thunder.
QUICK THOUGHTS ON RUSSELL'S RETURN
There are plenty of reasons to be excited about Russ's return, I for one am very interested to watch him play with Anthony Morrow. I thought the signing of Morrow this off-season was an underrated pick up, as he can really space the floor. Once Durant comes back, it will be fun to watch the Thunder's electric duo assault the rim even more effectively then they have in the past due to the spacing Morrow will provide. Durant and Westbrook have never played next to a shooter like Morrow before.
I also hope Russ takes 55 shots in his return tonight.
The Thunder currently sit at eight games under 500 at 4-12 and have a lot of work to do if they want to get back into the playoff picture, so at this point it may be fair to say that every game is a must win, especially against the struggling Knicks. Wins are incredibly hard to come by in the Western Conference, and the Thunder may not be able to afford to drop any more games to teams in the Eastern Conference cellar.
That's it for me, now bring on Russell.