Bricktown Beat

Thunder vs. Nets Game Preview: Hot-handed Thunder look to tackle Brooklyn’s 3-headed monster

Oklahoma City Thunder (8-9) @ Brooklyn Nets (12-8)

Tip Off: 7pm CST

Where To Watch: FSOK, NBA League Pass, YES Network

Overview:

The Oklahoma City Thunder is looking to start off their five-game home stand with a big win Friday night vs. the Brooklyn Nets. The Thunder was down as bad as 6-9 in the midst of their five-game home stand, but to critical wins against Portland and Phoenix, have trusted them into yet another opportunity to reach the .500 mark.

This game is not going to be easy pickings for the Thunder, as their matchup in the Brooklyn Nets have propped themselves to fourth in the Eastern Conference largely in part due to the acquisition of James Harden earlier this month.

Injuries

The Oklahoma City Thunder will have four players sidelined for Friday’s contest. Josh Hall (health and safety), Ty Jerome (ankle), George Hill (thumb) and Trevor Ariza (personal) will be out indefinitely.

The Brooklyn Nets will miss Spencer Dinwiddie (ACL), in addition to bigs Nicolas Claxton (knee), and recently acquired Norvel Pelle (not with team).

UPDATE: Kevin Durant (injury recovery) has been ruled out for tonight’s game.

Key Notes

This is a completely different Nets team.

This is not the first rodeo between these two teams this season, as in the first showing Oklahoma City skunked the Nets 129-116. Despite the Thunder winning the previous game by double-digits, this team is very distant from the one that stepped on the court January 10. Brooklyn since their last meeting has acquired James Harden at the expense of Caris Levert, Jarrett Allen, and Tauren Prince. This move has netted the team a 5-2 record record upon the arrival of the Beard.

The Nets play style has been transformed into an offensive assault with little focus on defensive repercussions. In their seven games with the big three, the Nets are averaging 125 points, while sacrificing 117 points to their opponent.

It comes without shock that Durant, Harden, and Irving can post 30 points on any given night, so we will see how head coach Steve Nash draws up the offense.

The Nets are struggling at the center position — take advantage.

The downfall to this Nets team comes on the defensive, particularly defending centers. Their roster is shorthanded at the five, pushing Deandre Jordan to the forefront at the position, with Jeff Green playing behind him. Jordan is still a quality big in the league, but he has struggled facing off against more athletic matchups. Of those of note in the past seven games are Julius Randle’s 30-piece, Nikola Vucevic’s 34-point night, and Bam Adebayo’s 41-point assault.

A fair question to bring up is if Al Horford fits in this sort of category, inside, maybe not—but outside, this might be Jordan’s toughest contest since he moved into the starting gig. Horford shot a perfect 5-5 from downtown in the Thunder’s previous match vs. the Phoenix Suns, and if he can continue to make his mark from deep, Jeff Green may need to be hoisted into the lineup for an extended time.

Isaiah Roby‘s role tonight is a question mark, as the 22-year-old played a scanty 10 minutes after starting six straight games. His speed and craftiness around the basket should give the sophomore a slight edge on a larger Jordan, but time will tell if he gets his shot on Friday.

Outside of the center position, you may want to take a look at Hamidou Diallo for a barrage of buckets inside. Diallo posted his season-high of 25 points (10-14 FG) off the bench, and he may look to do the same against the Nets. Diallo will be pinned against the likes of Harden, Bruce Brown, and Landry Shamet, but the real matchup will be against that of Jordan and Jeff Green. If Diallo is able to repeat his success from the first matchup, he could give the extra spark the offense to give Brooklyn a run for their money.

Dort was the “Harden Stopper” last season— does he defend him on Friday?

Luguentz Dort became the NBA’s darling over the 2019-2020 playoffs when he shut down James Harden at all levels. Since last season Dort not only shot up his three point percentage from 29.7% to 40.6%, but he has also assumed the duty of defending every teams premier scorer.

As it stands now, Kevin Durant leads the team with 30.5 points, but Irving and Harden are not far behind with 27.9 and 24.1 points respectively. I think you can safely rule Irving out of the way for a date with SGA. The real conversation comes down to whether Dort takes Harden or Kevin Durant.

Kevin Durant dropped 36 points in the first matchup, primarily on sophomore Darius Bazley, but I would not be surprised if the 20-year-old gets a second shot vs. the Slim Reaper. That leaves Dort once again faced with Harden, who clearly is looking to shake the narratives that haunted him during his stay in Orlando.

Update: With Kevin Durant ruled out, is it safe to assume Dort will be going up against James Harden from start to finish on defense.

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