By Kevin Sawyer
Thunder: 3-26 (1-3 road)
Margin: -9.4 ppg (-7.4 road)
Last 10: 1-9 (-6.4 margin)
Pistons: 15-11 (8-5 home)
Margin: even (+2.6 home)
Last 10: 5-5 (-0.3 margin)
Of the Chicago Bulls, I said "(they) don’t do anything particularly well." I am now bereft of anti-superlatives to describe the OKC Thunder. General Manager Sam Presti is revered as some sort of basketball genius, but at present, he’s saddled with one of the worst rosters in NBA history. To date, his biggest accomplishment was watching ping-pong balls bounce his way.
That said, the Thunder have been playing well of late, registering a win against Toronto, and credible challenges to Cleveland and Atlanta on their Eastern Conference swing. Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook in particular have stepped up their game. Westbrook dropped 24 points to go with 11 assists against the Cavs, while Jeff Green is coming off back-to-back double-doubles.
Outside of their solid young trio, however, the pickings are slim. Nick Collison has been disappointing this season, and looks to be out with a thumb injury. That leaves Chris Wilcox, Johan Petro and Robert Swift (also day-to-day) to man the paint. Each is a capable rebounder, but none are stellar defenders or scorers.
As such, this Thunder team is one without a real threat on the outside (they only shoot ten threes per game) or the inside. That’s not a good combination.
If the Pistons blow this, the calls to fire Curry will begin in earnest.
Keys for Detroit:
Sit Iverson: Curry is hopeful that Allen Iverson can play on three days’ rest after suffering a groin injury against Chicago. Let me get this straight. Your point guard is coming off a 40 point effort. Your squad is facing the worst team in the league at home in your 27th game of the year… And you’re going to test the legs of a 33 year old who relies on his speed to be effective?
Man the boards: OKC has been on a roll of late, outrebounding seven of their last eight opponents. Of course, given that this team shoots 43% from the field, the Thunder bigs have had plenty of practice.
Stop dribble penetration: The Pistons shouldn’t hesitate to go zone to stop Durant and Green. It is rare to find a team that doesn’t have anyone to penalize opponents from outside, and the Pistons have been vulnerable to dribble penetration all season.
Question of the game:
Can Stuckey do it again? With Iverson likely to see limited minutes, and facing young perimeter defenders, Stuckey has a golden opportunity to prove his big game was no fluke.