Photo Credits: Coby Van Loan/OKC Thunder
During the Oklahoma City Thunder’s nine game losing-streak, the roster has broken NBA history losing their last eight contests by an aggregate 219 points. Amongst their rough goings, they’ve yet to face a watered-down roster almost prepped to lose — that changes Friday night.
Oklahoma City will tee off their four-game road-trip at 6pm (cst) Friday night, squaring off against the Detroit Pistons. On the surface, this game seems like nothing more than a kitty fight between two of the NBA’s , by a record standpoint, lowliest teams. However, that’s far from the case here. They are partaking in an act of war.
If the regular season were to end today, the Detroit Pistons (16-39) would attain the third-highest lottery odds, garnering a 14-percent shot at the number one pick, and a 52.1-percent chance at a top four selection. In Oklahoma City’s case, if their 20-35 campaign took a close they’d be slotted in a two-way tie for the fifth selection. Assuming Oklahoma City wins their coin flip of the fifth best-odds, they only have a 9.8-percent chance at the first pick and 39.9-percent odds of claiming a top four pick. That’s a major drop-off for two spots in the standings.
Because of the major repercussions involved for collecting wins, teams have begun pulling players from games for mysterious injuries — think Kawhi Leonard’s “load management” but for non-contenders. One of those teams enacting these practices are none other than the Detroit Pistons.
Detroit has prepped for Friday’s battle ready, pulling regular starters Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee from duty for “rest purposes” while ex-Thunder guard Hamidou Diallo is questionable. These three members only reach the tip of the iceberg as Dennis Smith Jr., Rodney McGruder, Cory Joesph, and Wayne Ellington will all miss Friday’s contest as well.
For Oklahoma City, this pivotal battleground war may be their first time in weeks they are favored to win. Under the current injury report, active members Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Aleksej Pokusevski, Josh Hall, and Mike Muscala will all miss time, though will it be enough?
Given Lu Dort is entering the Motor City fresh off a career-high 42 points, and Darius Bazley dropped 22 points Wednesday, there may be a dynamic duo brewing.
Both sides met last April 5, when Detroit clobbered Oklahoma City en route to a 132-108 dismount, but circumstances were much different eleven days ago. With Jerami Grant now absent for the game and Lu Dort and Darius Bazley being reinserted (losing out on Poku,) there’s little correlation between either group outside of their jerseys.
With that said, expect Friday’s contest to be a must-watch showing between Oklahoma City and Detroit’s youth-filled rosters — and sit back, because there’s going to be some fireworks.