Philadelphia 76ers (2-5)
Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3)
TV: Comcast SportsNet, NBA League Pass Channel 9
Tip Time: 8:00 PM Eastern
Location: Oklahoma City Arena
Vegas Line: 9 (Thunder)
Mortal Enemies of the Night: Welcome to Loud City
On the road, against the Thunder...
The Thunder came into this season as the sexy team that many who follow basketball thought would add on to their vast improvement from a year ago. The emergence of Kevin Durant as a league superstar last year and again this summer in Turkey even lead to some NBA fans to predict this team would receive the one-seed in the West. Through the first six games of their young season, they haven't lived up to the hype.
This team has been pegged as a defensively tough squad, especially with Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, and Kevin Durant (not to be confused with Kevin Durand [that picture is from LOST]) as the starting backcourt. Last season, the Thunder finished 9th in the league with a defensive rating of 104.96. With a constantly developing young roster, there is nowhere to go but up right? Well, through the first six games, that would not be the case. A defensive rating of 109.5 this year for the Thunder is good (bad?) for 23rd in the league without much roster turnover at all (they've been without Nick Collison thus far and added Cole Aldrich).
Not only are they struggling on the defensive side, but the offense isn't quite there yet either. They are 21st in the league in offensive rating (103.9) which is nine spots lower than where they finished last year (hint: it was 12th - 108.3). Durant's field goal percentage is down 9% from where it was just a season ago (also averaging two more attempts a game) and the team three point percentage is at an abysmal 21.2%, down from an even 34% last year. To put that in perspective, two seasons ago the Sixers were considered one of the worst three-point shooting teams, and even they came out above 30%. This is probably just your average case of small sample-size, so I'd expect it to even out as the season progresses. There is just too much talent on this team to end up .500 when all is said and done.
Injury Report: Starting power forward Jeff Green is out tonight with an ankle injury. Expect Serge Ibaka to start alongside Nenad Krstic in the frontcourt.
For the second straight game, the Sixers will be without starting swingman Andre Iguodala. The rookie Evan Turner, yet again, will most likely start in Andre's spot. Turner posted his first career double-double in his start on Sunday against the Knicks, and will look to mirror that same success tonight against the better defensive team (althought the numbers don't show it yet this season) in the Thunder.
Already having covered one of the best players in the league in Dwyane Wade, Turner will once again have his hands full in pre-season MVP favorite Durant, being a step up from taking on Landry Fields on Sunday.
Another key match-up is between the two up-and-coming point guards in Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. For the third time this season, Jrue will have to stick a former UCLA comrade (although Jrue never played with Westbrook). Jrue, like Turner, has a tough task on his hands as Westbrook is as quick and athletic as they come. Expect Jrue to hang off Westbrook a little more than normal as Westbrook isn't anything to write home about when it comes to long jumpers (21% from three last year and 1-12 on the young season). Those two on each other should be a blast to watch.
Craig Brackins and Jodie Meeks are active tonight with the absences of Iguodala and Jason Kapono. If they get into the game, you know the drill.
This is the second straight game the Sixers have against a team whose primary colors include blue and orange? Conicidence? Probably.
Tip-off is at 8:00 PM lads. This is the GameThread. Let's do the damn thang.
Oh yeah, GO SIXERS!!!!