Oklahoma City Thunder (15-14, 7-7 road) at New Jersey Nets (2-28, 1-12 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.1 (17th), Nets – 96.8 (30th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.7 (8th), Nets – 108.9 (24th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.1 (20th), Nets – 92.7 (14th)
View from the enemy: Nets Are Scorching
I’m a broken record, I know. But the more this team wins, the more terrifying these should-win games get. Especially when they’re against a 2-28 team. I’m just having trouble getting used to a team that beats most every team it should. We didn’t see this last year and I haven’t gotten used to the idea of feeling confident. I still feel like at any time, to any team, this group could lose.
That said, this would be a bad one to drop. No, the Nets aren’t as bad as their 2-28 record, but that’s still no excuse to lose to them. Yes, Yi Jianlian is back and that’s improved New Jersey. BUT THAT’S STILL NO EXCUSE TO LOSE TO THEM.
The Nets coming in: I refuse to make fun of New Jersey’s horrible record because I remember being there. I remember 3-and-freaking-29 all to well. It’s not fun to be a part of. The Nets have lost nine straight after beating Chicago for their second win back on Dec. 8. They’re right in the middle of a seven-game homestand, that last had them playing Saturday against the Rockets. As I mentioned, Yi is back, and while that’s made them more competitive, they’re still losing. They are the WORST offensive team in the league by efficiency standards and with OKC being one of the best defensive teams, that appears to be the rub.
The key matchup here is Devin Harris versus Russell Westbrook (Harris has been hampered by injury a little though). We all know how fantastic Russ has been lately. In his last three, he’s been nothing short of awesome. But that was against Derek Fisher, Steve Nash and Ray Felton, three not so great defensive point guards. Harris, while captaining a 2-28 squad, is a good player. Russ will have to work harder defensively and that might sacrifice some of his offensive game. They key for him is to just distribute the ball because the Nets don’t defend and nobody should be able to guard Kevin Durant, or even Jeff Green, who should have an advantage over Yi.
New Jersey has a major advantage inside with Brook Lopez, but with OKC’s deep front line, I have a feeling the Thunder will be able to balance it somewhat with Nenad Krstic, Serge and Nick Collison. I said Russ will likely guard Harris, but I could see Westbrook sliding over and checking Courtney Lee and Thabo getting the Harris assignment. You’ve got to love the versatility of the unit. I’m sure Scott Brooks loves these options.
The Nets starting five isn’t horrible (sans Trenton Hassell; anytime Trenton Hassell is starting for you, I think that could be a reason you’re 2-28), but the Thunder have a major advantage with their bench. It should be a game where Durant gets his 30, Green plays well and if Westbrook can do his job, OKC should coast. If Harris outplays Westbrook substantially, New Jersey could upset OKC.
OKC has taken care of business to a pretty good degree so far. With the win over Charlotte, the Thunder are 10-2 against sub-.500 teams. But still, I’m not used to the idea of watching half-interested because I know my team will win. We’re not there yet. Everything is still somewhat of a toss-up, especially on the road.
Tip at 6:30 CST. Go Please Don’t Freaking Lose to a 2-28 Team.