Time: 5:00 PM CT
TV: ESPN / Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
Coming into the second half of a back-to-back and a night of travel, tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers (24-21) was already going to be difficult. Now, without Andre Roberson in the starting lineup, the Thunder (29-20) will face an even tougher task.
In case you somehow missed it, Roberson ruptured his patellar tendon during the third quarter of last night’s win against the Detroit Pistons and will be out for the remainder of the season. Now that Roberson is permanently out of the picture (he had previously missed eight games before returning), it will be interesting to see whether Coach Billy Donovan sticks with rookie Terrance Ferguson as Roberson’s replacement.
Roberson’s defensive abilities will certainly be missed tonight against the Sixers. Philadelphia has a top three-point shooter in Robert Covington (14th in the league in 3-pointers made) and the Sixers are seventh in the league in average points per game (108.1). Philadelphia will certainly put up a fight after losing to the Thunder in December in triple-overtime. However, the Thunder is on a seven-game winning streak and has significantly stepped up its game against teams with a worse record.
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- JJ Redick: Out — Leg
- Jerryd Bayless: Doubtful — Wrist
- Furkan Korkmaz: Out — Foot
- Demetrius Jackson: Out — Leg
- Markelle Fultz: Out — Shoulder
Sixers: Ben Simmons, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid
|Team||EFG%||FTA Rate||TOV%||OREB%||OPP EFG%||OPP FTA||OPP TOV%||OPP OREB%|
12/15: OKC 119, PHI 117 — 3OT [BOX SCORE]
Super Simmons. Sixers guard Ben Simmons is leading the race for Rookie of the Year. In Philadelphia’s win against the Spurs on Friday, Simmons put up a game-high 21 points (with 5 rebounds and 7 assists). It was the eighth time this season that Simmons recorded at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, leading all rookies. He’ll look to create issues for a weakened Thunder defense tonight.
25K Carmelo. During last night’s game, Carmelo Anthony notched his 25,000th career point, making him only the 21st player in NBA history to record at least 25,000. He is also one of only four players to reach this milestone while shooting at least 34.5 percent from three. He’s hitting 36 percent from deep in January and went 2/6 yesterday in Detroit.
Getting it Done on Both Ends. Throughout the seven-game winning streak, OKC has averaged a +14 point-differential over its opponents and now ranks in the top ten in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Golden State and Toronto are the only other teams in the top ten in both categories.
Turnover Turnaround. In yesterday’s game, the Thunder had only ten turnovers, with most of them coming in the early minutes of the game. This is an area that the Thunder has historically struggled with and it appears adjustments are being made to address it. On January 23 against the Nets, the Thunder had a season-low four turnovers. On the other end of the court, OKC is leading the league in steals per game (9.49) and opponent turnovers per game (16.5). We’ll see how that goes without Roberson.
Trade Deadline. The February 8 trade deadline is fast approaching and more than ever, Sam Presti needs to do what Sam Presti does. There’s a lot more on the line here than just post-season hopes. There’s no obvious solution to replacing Roberson, but I think Presti could go one of two ways – a young, medium-level guard or a strong veteran presence. It is very important that the replacement be tough on defense.
However, the Thunder doesn’t have much to offer in return (in terms of future picks or current players) so acquiring a big name player could be difficult. The Thunder may have to opt for a less expensive veteran like Zach Randolph or Vince Carter. Here’s what the Thunder have on the table (via Bobby Marks, ESPN):
Updating My Pick: In last week’s episode of Mr. Presti’s Neighborhood, I predicted that the Thunder would lose tonight’s game. However, after everything that happened last night, I’m updating my prediction and I think the Thunder win this one for Dre.
In Their Words: In this week’s final excerpt from Fraternizing With The Enemy, Christoper Kline of Sixers Sense said this is the key to the 76ers game plan:
“The third and fourth quarter. The Sixers almost always start strong then let other teams back into the game late, so execution down the stretch will be huge. They’ll have some star-caliber guys to contain in Westbrook and George, while I expect TJ McConnell to play a big role off the bench yet again. If Ben Simmons can make some plays late and Joel Embiid executes in the post, the Sixers are capable of beating just about anybody. It’s about avoiding those youthful mistakes (turnovers) that have been way too common this year.”