Suns (2-0, 0-0 road) vs. Thunder (1-1, 0-0 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 93.5 (27th), Suns– 103.5 (12th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 101.7 (10th), Suns – 94.9 (3rd)
Pace: Thunder – 97.3 (10th), Suns – 92.2 (27th)
View from the enemy: Valley of the Suns
Phoenix coming in: The Suns are 2-0, with wins over the Blazers and Jazz.
The biggest regular season game in Thunder history. OK, so it’s not, but it is rather important in terms of chilling everybody out a bit. Coming off the worst loss in maybe four years, the Thunder don’t just need a win, but they need to play well. Because they won against the Jazz, but nobody felt all that great about what they saw.
That’s what I had written before about 2 p.m. when news broke that Russell Westbrook was going to return to the court tonight. Because now? It’s all about that. The Thunder need to win and they need to play well. But regardless of all that, Westbrook’s return should be a much-needed boost and a shot of confidence.
But, that doesn’t mean that just having Westbrook on the court is going to solve everything. Fact remains that the Thunder looked sloppy and stale in their first two games and relying on their All-Star point guard that’s coming off a major knee surgery to step right in and fix everything is really unfair. Westbrook needs to ease in and while he’s said to be 100 percent and ready to go, all the talk was that the Thunder were going to be a better team when he came back. Are they? I don’t think so.
One thing that having Westbrook back should help though, is the second unit. It sends Reggie Jackson to the bench to assume his role as sixth man and will greatly help the punch coming from the non-starters. That’s pretty big.
Again, Westbrook’s return is huge and a major boost to the team, but I’m honestly a little concerned about it coming so quickly. Not because he’s rushing back, but because I was hoping the team would be able to be in a better place. That they’d develop a little chemistry, have a few bit players build confidence and that the execution and movement would be in place. Except really, it’s more that Westbrook is stepping in to save the Thunder, which is unfortunate. In a weird way, I kind of wanted to see how they played tonight without him.
Not that I’m complaining about him being back. Because that’s a great thing. Let’s just hope it goes well.
Three Big Things
1. Russ. How much does he play? How does he play? Who does he play with? What’s he look like? Does he do anything differently? Is he still as explosive? All eyes will be on him tonight for however long he’s out there. I’ll say this: Don’t judge him based on tonight. He’s had two procedures in the last six months and he hasn’t had a preseason game. It might take some time to get his legs under him to play 30-35 minutes a game. Cut him some slack.
2. Rotations. Now that Brooks has his full complement of players, how does he use them? Does he still play 10? Who’s first off the bench? Does Perry Jones still see minutes? Does Jeremy Lamb? What about Derek Fisher? He was the backup point guard — now is he the third string guy, or is he going to play more shooting guard? Will Jackson and Westbrook play together a lot? Brooks has really moved his pieces around a lot in the first two — how does he approach tonight having everyone back?
3. Win. The Thunder need a win. Plain and simple.
Tip at 6:00 CT. Go Why Not?