Friday, January 4, 8:00 PM (EST) at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
15-18 (3rd Atlantic, 8th East)
24-7 (1st Northwest, 1st West)
TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic FM | Live Stats
MATCHUP TO WATCH
G Russell Westbrook vs. G Jrue Holiday
Perhaps the league's most explosive player, Russell Westbrook is blessed with blazing speed, supreme athleticism, and deceiving strength. On the year, the 6-3 point guard is averaging 21.7 points, 8.7 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.1 steals; the latter three are career highs. Despite these impressive statistics, his scoring efficiency has dropped significantly this season. After shooting 45.7% from the field last season, that number has dropped to just 41.0% this season – his field-goal percentage since his rookie season (39.8 FG%). At times criticized for his shot selection, Westbrook is second only to Kobe Bryant in shot attempts per game (18.5) this season. Teammate and 2011-12 scoring champion Kevin Durant is fourth in the league (18.0); his field-goal percentage is a remarkable 51.7%. Over Westbrook's last 10 games, he's averaging 22.1 points, while shooting just 38.4% from the field on 19.0 attempts per game.
With each passing week, point guard Jrue Holiday further cements his status as one of the league's top guards. On the year, he's 13th in the league in scoring (18.8 PPG) and third in assists (9.0 APG). Over his last three games, he's averaging 23.7 points (50.0 FG%), 9.7 assists, and 7.0 rebounds. In Wednesday's loss to the Phoenix Suns, Holiday recorded his second career triple-double (16 PTS, 10 AST, 10 REB). The 22-year-old has failed to reach double-digit points just once this season (six points and 13 assists in a 116-109 overtime loss to the Thunder on November 24).
Simply put, Russell Westbrook is a volume scorer. His offensive instincts second to few, but he's always been a player for whom scoring will come at a price. Despite the fact that 69.0% of his shot attempts are jump shots, he converts on less than 40% of those shots. In fact, the only area of the floor from which he shoots better than 40% is within three feet of the rim (51.7 FG%). How is he the league's sixth-highest scorer, you might ask? Free throws. He's attempted the fifth-most free throws in the league this season (6.5 per game) and boasts an 81.5% career conversion rate on those attempts. In games in which he's gotten to the line at least seven times this season, he's averaged 23.8 points per game; the Thunder are 10-3 in those games – all three losses came on the road and two of them came against the Heat and Spurs. Keeping Westbrook out of the lane and off the line will be key Friday night.
R. WESTBROOK | T. SEFOLOSHA | K. DURANT | S. IBAKA | K. PERKINS
Party of Five
The Thunder are the only team in the NBA that has started the same five players in every game this season. The feat is not simply a result of luck in regard to injuries, but is also a testament to the effectiveness of the Oklahoma City starters. Forward Kevin Durant and guard Russell Westbrook average 50.1 combined points per game this season, with big man Serge Ibaka adding another 14.3 a night. Guard Thabo Sefolosha and center Kendrick Perkins provide their starting unit with solid, no-frills defense. The group has helped the Thunder get out to a 24-7 start, the best mark in the NBA.
Did We Catch You At A Bad Time?
The Thunder had won 12 consecutive home games heading into Wednesday's meeting with the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets were able to break that streak, winning 110-93. When the Sixers come to town Friday, they'll face an already imposing Thunder team that will likely have a little extra juice. To be fair, though, there is really no good time to play the defending Western Conference Champion Thunder. After starting the season 1-2, the Thunder have won 23 of their last 28 games.
LAST TIME THEY MET
Thunder 116, Sixers 109 (OT) – November 24, 2012
The Sixers were nearly able to upset the Thunder when the two teams met at Wells Fargo Center on November 24. In the end, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant proved to be too much to handle. They combined for 67 points, with Durant scoring 15 of his 37 points from the free-throw line. Thaddeus Young had his best game of the season, a 29-point, 15-rebound effort in 44 minutes of floor time. Evan Turner added another 26 points and Jrue Holiday dished out 13 assists in the overtime loss.