Thunder at Nets: Pre-game view

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Oklahoma City Thunder (6-32) vs. New Jersey Nets (18-19)
Big Monday, Jan. 12
Izod Center
East Rutherford, New Jersey
6:30 PM CST

TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37, HD 722)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM)

Since Dec. 31, OKC is 3-3. That’s .500. That’s awesome. Throw in a very nice road win against a sluggish Bulls team and I’m feeling strangely good about a 6-32 team. Oh and also, 10 minus six is… let’s see… four. That means four more wins and nobody says anything about Worst Team Ever anymore. And better yet, there’s 44 games left! In order to tie the 1972-73 Sixers, OKC would have to go 3-41 the rest of the way. No way that’s happening. Especially because I think the Thunder’s going to notch No. 7 tonight. That’s right.

The Nets are a two man scoring team. Devin Harris and Vince Carter. That’s really it. Brook Lopez is a nice rookie averaging about 10 a game. YI Jianlian is an ALL-STAR!?? that’s getting about 10 a game (seriously, no more fan vote for All-Star games anymore. I bet Penny Hardaway still gets a couple thousand votes still just because people don’t know). Jarvis Hayes hits some threes, Bobby Simmons is a good role player and Ryan Anderson is a decent big, but there’s not a lot to the Nets. But there will be an Eduardo Najera sighting which makes me happy. I love Eddie Naj.

But OKC matches the Nets well. And add in the fact that New Jersey is worse at home (8-12) than they are on the road (10-7) and that leads me to lean OKC. More than likely there will be 45 people there tonight and that’s including the two teams’ entire rosters. So if the Thunder come out with energy and excitement, they could jump on top of the Nets. Because empty arenas typically tend to lead to unexcited home teams. Throw in the fact that Yi won’t be playing and Devin Harris is still hurting and is questionable.

A couple good storylines to pay attention to within the game:
Nenad Krstic versus his former franchise. Is it a big deal? Does this even register on the Revenge Scale? I don’t think Krstic holds any grudge against the Nets, but I’m sure he is a little miffed they didn’t sign him to an extension regardless of a busted knee. Each game Krstic plays, the more acclimated and less rusty he gets. Tonight would be a good game to break out with.

Russell Westbrook vs. Devin Harris (assuming Harris plays).
Quick on quick. Speed on speed. Both players attack the rim with reckless abandon, except Harris has a more consistent jumper. Both are very good defenders and both are catching more and more attention. Westbrook finally had a “bad” game against the Bulls but now his bad ones are a 3-16, six points, five turnovers showing but rather a 5-20, 14 point, 12 rebound performance. A major, major key will be Russell staying in front of Harris and limiting his penetration.

Helllooo Nick Collison! Finally. Seriously, finally. In Collison’s last three games since returning from injury, he’s averaged 15.3 ppg and 9.7 rpg. That’s what I’m taking about.

Kevin Durant’s turnovers. KD has been so awesome lately scoring 28 and grabbing 12 boards against Chicago. But he turned it over six times. And that’s on top of the seven he had against Houston. I wrote about his carelessness with the rock about a week ago and I’ve talked about his struggles in ball-handling too (I actually have a theory for this), but he’s got to do better here. Right now, that’s what is holding his PER down and is keeping him from being an elite player.

A road trip can wear on a young team especially when that team will being playing its fifth game in seven days. But like I said, energy is key tonight. The crowd will be non-existent and the Nets won’t be at full strentgh. If OKC can play with confidence early, I think I smell a winning streak.

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