The Oklahoma City Thunder (27-20) welcome former head coach Scott Brooks back to Chesapeake Energy Arena as they take on Brooks’ Washington Wizards (26-21) in a nationally televised contest on TNT at 7 p.m. cst.
The Thunder are coming off a one-point nail-biting win against the Brooklyn Nets, a game that was all 12th ranked in the Eastern Conference Brooklyn until Ray Felton and the reserves touched off a 35-23 Thunder fourth quarter with a 10 to 0 run at the beginning of the last frame. The Wizards enter this one recovering from one of their worst losses of the season after being pummeled by an injury-depleted, soon to be lottery fodder, Dallas Maverick team, 98 to 75, in their last outing.
As with any game that doesn’t feature an ESPN darling opponent it’s difficult to gauge the level of urgency the Thunder will muster before tip-off against the Wizards. Though they come equipped with a very talented backcourt tandem that features 4-time All-Star John Wall and first-time 2018 All-Star Bradley Beal, Washington, by almost every other measure, is a barely above average basketball team. Twelfth in offensive rating, fourteenth defensive. Fifteenth in pace, fourteenth in EFG%, and 12th in FT/FGA, etc.
At number 8 in turnovers per 100 plays, the Wizards do a fair job of protecting the ball and rank 9th, according to basketballreference.com, in opponent’s EFG%, thus the Thunder will not find steals quite so easy against the Wizards as the pickings were with Nets, but should see a few more open shots as the Nets sit two spots ahead of Washington in EFG% rankings.
Sheldon Mac is the only Wizard on the injury list as Otto Porter, who left the Dallas game with a lingering hip strain, is cleared to play with no minute restrictions. Other than keeping a close eye on Andre Roberson’s patellar tendonitis condition, the Thunder are injury free.
On paper, the Thunder should win but the Thunder’s 27 and 20 record, 3 games below expectations, and the Wizards 26 and 21 mark, one game above expectations, is cause for concern. Middle-of-the-road overachievers and sub-500 teams have given the Thunder problems all season and until OKC can find that middle gear between zero, losses to lottery fodder, and Mach 1, magnificent triumphs over the mighty, consistently, Thunder fans and lowly bloggers will continue to look at these types of games with varying degrees of trepidation.
Yesterday, Steven Adams gave his thoughts on facing a team led by a former coach as well as his opinion on the value of rebounding:
Other than saving some scouting time, Adams didn’t see any real advantage playing against a former coach’s team because every team runs basically the same plays. More important in Adam’s estimation was a commitment to discipline and execution, the areas Adams said were the keys against any team, and the areas the Thunder have faltered at when faced with teams that don’t stir their emotions sufficiently. That is why the Thunder are a minimum of 3 games under expectation at this point in the season.
Will Brooks’ return to OKC or the prospect of an embarrassing performance in front of a national audience be enough to motivate the team to put forth a solid 48-minute effort against an average team?
Or could the recent All-Star snub against Paul George ignite the Thunder’s passion to make a statement?
Important questions both, but still short of the last questions Steven Adams faced in his recent interview:
Yes, Samson was cool, until he hooked up with Delilah and she cut off his flowing locks and stole his power after seducing him into a false sense of security and then drugging him. Hopefully, there are no Delilahs at the Peake to tempt the Thunder tonight, they’ve been sheared enough this season already.
Who do you think will win tonight?
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