GAME TIME: 8:00 PM ET
Thunder: 7-33 (5-16 Home)
Margin: -7.4 ppg (-5.0 Home)
Last 10: 4-6 (margin -2.0)
Pistons: 22-15 (10-9 Road)
Margin: +0.4 ppg (-0.9 Road)
Last 10: 6-4 (margin +1.1)
(My apologies for the erratic home/road margins. As has been the case with increasing frequency, ESPN has been unreliable for this data. I realized something was off when our road margin had somehow improved after the Indiana game.)
The OKC Thunder have ceased to be the laughing stock of the NBA. Kevin Durant is finally emerging as a legitimate star, becoming a more efficient scorer and a better rebounder. Russell Westbrook is emerging as the front runner for the ROY award, and his improved shooting and rebounding have allowed the Thunder to start him alongside Earl Watson, thus fortifying the starting lineup.
Credit first year coach Scott "Don't call me 'Scotty'"Brooks for emphasizing rebounding and taking advantage of his team's athleticism to become a relatively solid defensive squad. With the addition of Nenad Krstic and the re-awakening of Nick Collison, the Thunder trounced Utah 114-93 on Wednesday night.
The Thunder still have gaps, of course. Depth at the guard position is an issue, as Desmond Mason is their only option after the complete collapse of Damien Wilkins. Earl Watson hasn't exactly been lighting it up either. Durant's failure to succeed at the two has forced the Thunder to use a smallball rotation even though they have enough bigs to man the four and five positions if Jeff Green is playing the three.
But this is a vastly improved team with an excellent shot at playing its way out of the cellar before the end of the season.
Rasheed missed shootout, and will be a game time decision. Is it just an illness, or is he checking out? According to Basketball-Reference, Walter Herrman is questionable, with flu-like symptoms. Who knew beauty was a flu-like symptom?
Keys for Detroit:
Ditch smallball: It doesn't work.
Go big: If possible, start players who are 6'10 or taller at the power-forward and center positions.
Avoid under-sized lineups: Play each player at his natural position.
Question of the game:
Are the Thunder the favorite in this game? Vegas gives Detroit a four point edge, but that's probably being generous. At present, the Thunder are outplaying Charlotte and Indiana. Could this be the final nail in the smallball coffin?