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Thunder vs 76ers preview and gamethread: 3 things to watch as OKC looks to straighten the ship

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The Thunder are reeling, and now they must deal with the talented team in Philly.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Game: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Philadelphia 76ers

Time: 2:30PM CST

Location: Wells Fargo Center

Broadcast: ABC

Counterpart: Liberty Ballers


3 Things to Watch as the thunder take on the 76ers in Philadelphia:

1. Can the Thunder get stops?

All season, even when they’ve struggled with shooting, OKC has been able to count on their defense, allowing about 104 points per 100 possessions, 2nd best in the league .

But not recently- over the last 6 games, during which they’ve played objectively awful, the Thunder have allowed nearly 120 points per 100 possessions. The only teams with worse defensive ratings — The Cavaliers and Bulls — are tanking. This is embarrassing.

OKC will need to try and turn it around against a top 10 offense. One upside for OKC — the Thunder’s greatest struggle over the past several games has been defending the pick and roll. No team runs less of this most standard offensive action than the Sixers do. Philly is able to find plenty of points in other ways, but at least OKC won’t have to see repeated alley-oop dunks to rookie big men the way they did in recent contests.

2. The center battle

One of the main ways Philly does try to generate points is through post ups for its goliath MVP candidate, Joel Embiid. Embiid had big games in both contests between the Thunder and Sixers last year, posting 27 and 33 points in the two matchups (OKC won both, including an Overtime thriller that hinged on an Andre Roberson layup).

Steven Adams will be charged with trying to contain Embiid. Adams will have his work cut out for him, both in defending Embiid in the post and on the glass. Amidst the Thunder’s other struggles, their rebounding has quietly slipped as well. Their offensive rebounding, typically a trademark strength, has been only average over the last 10 games. Adams had a big rebounding in Thursday’s loss to the Lakers but otherwise has been a little less successful on the offensive glass than we’ve come to expect lately.

Can he turn it around against one of the best bigs in the NBA?

3. Transition

One place where the Thunder have continued to be strong even as the rest of the defense has faltered is forcing turnovers- they’re first on the season, and a respectable 3rd over the last 10 games despite their defensive struggles. The Sixers, despite playing well, have coughed the ball up the third most in the league over their last 10 games.

Until Russell Westbrook remembers how to shoot consistently (7-30 last game), or decides to shoot less — you tell me which is more likely, OKC is going to struggle with their half court offense. Forcing turnovers and finding easy points in transition while locking down of defense is the clearest path to victory.


Who do you think will win today?

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