OKC Thunder (39-23, 17-14 road) at Philadelphia 76ers (33-30, 21-10 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.6 (5th), 76ers– 107.1 (16th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 108.2 (16th), 76ers – 104.8 (9th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.1 (12th), 76ers – 91.9 (17th)
View from the enemy: Philadunkia
Before the season, you probably looked at the schedule and saw consecutive games against the Grizzlies and Sixers and thought, “Oh, there are two wins.” Nope. The Grizzlies are good as we just saw and the Sixers, they can play too.
Philadelphia has come a long way since the first time these teams played when the Thunder pretty much ran over them. You could sense it in Doug Collins’ postgame that he knew his team was getting there. And they are. They’re 33-30 now and not only are firmly in the playoffs, but are pushing the Knicks for sixth right now. So heading to Philly isn’t a sure thing by any means for the Thunder. It’ll be a tough game against a young, gritty group eager to keep winning.
Philadelphia coming in: The Sixers are 8-2 over their last 10 and have won three straight. They played last night, beating Indiana.
What’s made the Sixers so good lately is balance. Between Elton Brand, Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young off the bench and Andre Iguodala, they get good scoring. Add in a marksman like Jodie Meeks and a playmaker like Evan Turner and despite the Sixers not having a big name star on the roster, they have a quality cast of players that fit.
The Sixers like to play three guards, so most likely Iguodala will get Kevin Durant, which will be a fun matchup. Iggy can guard as well as anyone, but KD has some size. Since the ankle injury, Durant has been a little less aggressive, taking just five free throws against Memphis. He needs to get back into attack mode and not rely too much on the jumper.
Holiday did well against OKC in the first game, but Russell Westbrook ended up eating him up. Westbrook needs to establish control of the game early and do his best to upset the Sixer offense by disrupting Holiday.
Inside the Sixers aren’t that big, but Brand is always good so Serge Ibaka will have to battle. Spencer Hawes is a finesse center who likes to shoot outside so you guessed it, I imagine we’ll see the Thunder go small with KD at the four some in this one. But at least it makes some sense, unlike against the Grizzlies.
Not an easy road tilt against a rising Eastern team. The Thunder will have to play well on both ends to get it done. But OKC feels some urgency here. They need to win. Statistically, the 76ers are similar to the Grizzlies. Good defensive team that plays slower but still executes relatively well. It’ll be a challenge, no doubt.
Tip at 6:00 CT. Go Winners.