Photo Credits: Alonzo Adams/USA-Today
Oklahoma City Thunder (7-9) @ Phoenix Suns (8-7)
Tip Off: 8pm CST
Where To Watch: FSOK, NBA League Pass
The Oklahoma City Thunder (7-9) look to cap off their five-game road stand against the Phoenix Suns (8-7) on Wednesday. For this matchup, there will be some familiar faces lining up against the Thunder, as Abdel Nader and Chris Paul are set to battle with their former teammates for the first time since being traded last offseason.
The Phoenix Suns are entering the hardwood tonight with a few crucial players not being suited up for the game. Backup center Damian Jones and forward Dario Saric will both be sidelined for the game for health and safety protocols. However; the Suns biggest blow to the rotation comes from the absence of Devin Booker (hamstring.) Booker has led the team in scoring to this point (22.9) and gives the backup guards in Jevon Carter and Langston Galloway a big gap to fill.
Oklahoma City has two players listed as probable for the game in the usual starters of Al Horford (personal) and George Hill (thumb.) For Al Horford, the original plan was he’d return with the team on Friday vs. Brooklyn, but as it stands now he could assume the role of starting center again as soon as tonight. Hill sat last game after reportedly having issues gripping the basketball, so we will see if he is up to compete vs. the Suns. Josh Hall (personal), Ty Jerome (ankle), and Trevor Ariza (personal) are all out for the game.
Players to Watch For
Deandre Ayton (PHO)- Ayton ranks fifth in the NBA in rebounds per game (12.2), with over 3 of them coming from the offensive side of the ball. His 6-foot-11, 250-pound frame enables him to be aggressive down low, while have the agility to cover a lot of ground. If Al Horford remains absent for the game, Isaiah Roby will carry the heavy-lifting on shutting down the Arizona product. Enes Kanter dropped 22 rebounds at the five in the Thunder’s last game, so it may be safe to assume Ayton in on the lookout for a similar set of numbers. One quality that Ayton has over Kanter however, is his tendency to put the ball right back to the rim off the miss. Enes Kanter scored 13 points on 10 shots in his game, but you can bet Ayton will be taking alot more off second-chances and working in the post.
Chris Paul (PHO)- Chris Paul has been averaging just 13.8 points thus far for the Suns, but with Devin Booker out, he is the obvious first option. Chris Paul mentored and developed all of the Thunder’s players last season, including his matchup at the one, Shai GIlgeous-Alexander. After Paul’s time with Oklahoma City, you’d have to believe he knows every nook and cranny in the Thunder’s system, and what to exploit in his former team members.
Paul has a plethora of moves to create shots for himself (as made apparent last season,) but you cannot undervalue his playmaking ability. Paul leads his team in assists (9.0) on the year, and has created the majority of the teams open looks off the pass. Shutting down Paul’s passing lanes in the second level of the Thunder defense will be critical in taking this game.
Thunder Perimeter Shooters- Oklahoma City made it rain from the three-point land in Monday’s contest shooting 18-40 (45%) from outside. The levels of success the Thunder reached in the game are unparalleled to the rest of the team’s previous games. Mike Muscala poured on a career-high six three while three members of the team cracked multiple makes from downtown. Getting the pick-and-pop in sync early should open the gates to penetrations and other members of the team finding good looks.
Hamidou Diallo (OKC)- Diallo was the only Thunder member who did not attempt a three on Monday, but his inside game made up for it on 5-8 shooting. With Jevon Carter likely taking the staring shooting-guard job, that leaves Langston Galloway and E’Twaun Moore splitting time in the second unit. Hamidou Diallo’s athleticism outnumbers any array of defense either of those guards can bring to the table, giving the 22-year-old a golden opportunity for a big performance.