Oklahoma City at Washington
Time: 7 PM CST
Spread: OKC -1
Betting odds courtesy of Bovada
The Oklahoma City Thunder keep trying to emerge from the pit that was dug while both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were simultaneously sidelined. The Thunder have won three-straight games and will travel to face a 29-13 Washington Wizards team. OKC is a one-point favorite according to NBA oddsmakers at Bovada, and given OKC’s 9-13 road record, this seems like one the Wizards could potentially steal.
The Wizards are 18-5 at home this season, and John Wall has been arguably the best point guard in the NBA up to this point. The Wiz are 4th in the NBA in assists per game, of which Wall contributes 10 per game, to go with his 17 points, two steals. Wall boasts a 2.7/1 Assist to Turnover ratio, while posting the highest PER of any Wizard (20.7). Bradley Beal has become the marksman he was billed to be, averaging 14.8 points per game while shooting 46.2 percent from three-point range.
The addition of Paul Pierce has given the Wizards another scorer, age notwithstanding. Pierce is only seeing 26 minutes a game, but his veteran presence is a nice asset; and it’s not as though any NBA team could turn down 12.3 points per game off the bench. He’s third in Wizards scoring, ahead of starters Marcin Gortat and Nene Hilario.
Gortat has an outside chance at a coach’s pick for the All-Star team. After having served as Dwight Howard’s backup for the first part of his career, he’s blossomed since leaving Orlando. Gortat had a nice stint in Phoenix and this season is averaging 12 points, eight rebounds and nearly two blocks/steals per game. Paired with a lot of depth in the frontcourt (Kris Humphries, Kevin Seraphin) gives the Wizards a balanced team between perimeter play and tough big men.
The Wizards are a legit threat to win the Eastern Conference, and proving it against a top Western Conference team tonight would be a statement to the nation on national television.
The Thunder are the NBA’s best rebounding team, while also sporting the highest scoring duo in the NBA. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are now having about equal shares in the offense, with both averaging about 25 points per game, while seeing just 31 minutes a night. The Thunder have the depth to relieve both and preserve the health and energy for the postseason.
Dion Waiters made a good acquisition and seems very pleased to be in OKC, saying to reporters “The difference is I actually see the ball here, and touch the ball.” Waiters was no longer of use to the Cavs, because of his reticent nature to feel involved in the offense; J.R. Smith won’t have any problem getting his shots up.
Serge Ibaka eventually has to win a defensive player of the year award. Once again, he averages over two blocks per game and he can put the ball in the hole, too. While he’s kind of a Toronto-version of Chris Bosh, he has to be more assertive, especially when he catches it in the high post where he could simply obliterate defenders if he chose to. Ibaka is a superb leaper and athlete, and sometimes he fails to use his length in the paint. He should average more than seven boards a game given his leaping ability and anticipation. The disconnect lies in physicality.
Backup Steven Adans has plenty of that. Adams is seeing 24 minutes a game, and posting humble stats, but his intangible factors are off the chart. The rotations are quicker with Adams in the game (opposed to Nick Collison in the past, who Adams compares favorably too offensively). He’s growing as an NBA talent, and the Thunder have some young pieces to nurture with him. Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones are both exceptional young talents, and together with Adams give the Thunder a young core that can keep the team successful should Durant bolt in 2016 free agency.