However, two of Brooklyn’s twelve victories have occurred in the team’s past four outings. Most recently, led by a first-quarter offensive eruption, Coach Kenny Atkinson’s squad defeated intrastate-rival New York 120-112. Opposite the free-falling Knicks, nine Nets players scored 8+ amid a fusillade of 19 made three-pointers to hold serve at the Barclays Center.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has enjoyed consecutive victories over top-level competition in San Antonio and Utah. During both ventures, the Thunder halted nine and four-game winning streaks as Russell Westbrook triple-doubled his way to averages of 28 ppg, 12 rpg, and 13.5 apg.
Following an unexpected four-game slide, these timely wins restored confidence to Oklahoma City’s cause.
During tonight’s season finale vs. Brooklyn, the Thunder seeks both a 2-0 sweep and replication of an earlier 124-105 mastery of their inter-conference foe.
In the teams’ first meeting, Brook Lopez highlighted his unit’s 40-point first quarter barrage. Ultimately, though, an unfazed Thunder collective methodically wrung victory from the visiting Nets’ grasp.
That night, Westbrook (30 pts, 13 asts, 10 rebs) and Victor Oladipo (26) combined to vanguard Oklahoma City’s advance.
During this evening’s encounter, while struggling on the road, OKC seeks validation away from Chesapeake Energy Arena.
And versus Brooklyn, this goal is perfectly attainable. Though the Nets play with pace (103.7 poss. used, NBA-high) and space (top 5 3PM/3PA), overall the Nets rank among the bottom-three teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
If Oklahoma City performs with composure, while limiting Brooklyn’s frenetic scheme and three-point attempts, a three-game winning streak awaits.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (37-29 #7 west) vs. BROOKLYN NETS (12-53 #15 east)
- Time: 7:30 PM ET
- Venue: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
- TV: FSOK
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER KEYS TO VICTORY
- Defend the three-point line: Oklahoma City’s only realistic concern vs. Brooklyn is allowing too many made threes. A focused perimeter defense can help prevent this from occurring.
- Play under control, Russell: “Controlled energy” serves as tonight’s OKC mantra. Obviously, all avenues of Thunder performance begin with Westbrook. A measured outing from Russ vs. the league’s worst record should be enough to seal victory.
- Keep attacking, Victor: In his last two outings, Oladipo has averaged 21 ppg while shooting 21-39 FGA. When Vic maximizes his shot-creating ability, the Thunder becomes a dynamic offensive collection.
- Take your game with you: No team holds a larger home/away win-loss discrepancy than OKC — minus-13 road (12-20). Again, Brooklyn is the perfect opponent to create positive habits against.
- Bench synergy: A good dose of strong bench play is always conducive to winning basketball.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
In an interesting statistic, opposite Brooklyn, the Thunder seeks to avoid a fifth-consecutive loss to sub .500 competition.
Also of note, if newly-instated starting PF Taj Gibson sits due to injury, OKC must continue to move the basketball —something Oklahoma City failed to do while being outscored 48-36 vs. Utah following Gibson’s hip tweak.
To summarize, Oklahoma City cannot lose focus tonight against a decidedly over-matched Nets team.
Having won two of four, still the lottery-bound Nets have nothing to lose. Trite, but this makes for a dangerous opponent.
Though Brooklyn has a league-worst 12 wins, they’ve recently shown vs. Memphis and New York that no NBA iteration can be taken lightly.
The combination of Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez should prove an interesting look for OKC’s defense.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS/INJURY REPORTS
The Oklahoma City Thunder list Taj Gibson (Hip) as day-to-day. Gibson did not participate in OKC’s Sun practice. The Brooklyn Nets list Joe Harris (Concussion, Shoulder) as out vs. Oklahoma City.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
- Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
- Shooting Guard: Victor Oladipo
- Small Forward: Andre Roberson
- Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis/Taj Gibson
- Center: Steven Adams
- Point Guard: Jeremy Lin
- Shooting Guard: Randy Foye
- Small Forward: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
- Power Forward: Caris LaVert
- Center: Brook Lopez
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: -6
For obvious reasons, Oklahoma City is a considerable favorite heading into tonight’s contest vs. Brooklyn.
Though light speculation has arisen concerning the possibility of inclement weather halting this evening’s affair, currently, OKC vs. Brooklyn is still scheduled for a 7:30 PM ET tip.
That stated, tonight’s key matchup will be Westbrook/Adams vs. Lin/Lopez. This evening, Jeremy Lin is set to make his season debut opposite the Thunder. Lin’s return necessitates another wrinkle in OKC’s gameplan, as on select occasions, Lin can still carry a team on his back.
If “Linsanity” combines with the match-up dilemma presented by Brook Lopez (302 3PA) to Steven Adams —who isn’t comfortable guarding the perimeter— OKC could find themselves in an unexpected dog fight.
Even so, opposite Brooklyn, the Thunder attempt to win a third-straight contest before continuing a mini-road trip Thursday vs. Toronto.