Preview: Nets take on Thunder's star-studded roster in Mexico
Brooklyn wants to keep its international success going when it hosts Oklahoma City in Mexico City
Updated: 1:05 p.m. ET
The Nets (9-14) hope their strong run in the NBA’s Global Games continue when they host the Thunder (11-12) at the Arena Ciudad de México in Mexico City. It's the first of two games at the stadium and the team will be looking for its fourth-straight international win, continuing a streak that started in London back in 2011. Brooklyn is also looking for its 10th win of the season, a mark it didn’t reach until March 1 last season.
Here’s three things to watch for in Thursday’s game:
1. Superstars vs. Team Brooklyn
The accolades of the Thunder’s star trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony speak for themselves: 20 All-Star appearances, three scoring titles and one MVP award. This is a team that should be contending for the NBA title, even if an inconsistent start has led to concern in Oklahoma City. Yet, the team does appear to be building some momentum as its won three in a row.
For Brooklyn, that only adds to the challenge of getting off to a good start in the Global Games. The Thunder have a variety of ways to score and when they are clicking, it makes the team difficult to defend. In order for the Nets to win, they’ll will need to assert themselves early and keep the pace of the game high throughout the game.
Oklahoma City leads the NBA in isolation frequency with 12 percent, with a scoring rate of 42.8 percent on those plays. If Brooklyn plays its game (the team is currently third in the league in pace), it would go a long way towards stopping those iso plays.
2. Key Matchup: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson vs. Carmelo Anthony
The Nets’ task of slowing down the Thunder has been slightly boosted by Thursday’s announcement that George will sit the game with a calf contusion. But Oklahoma City still has plenty of firepower.
While Anthony’s scoring numbers have dipped with each progressive month on the Thunder, he is still one of the elite scorers in the NBA. The 33-year-old has transitioned into a power forward role and is effective in scoring from both the perimeter and low post. If anything, George’s injury gives Melo a chance to get more touches – something the 2013 scoring champion won’t complain about.
If there is one area that Anthony does struggle with, it’s tall, athletic players who can defend well on the perimeter. Enter Hollis-Jefferson.
Like his counterpart, he’s also transitioned into the four spot after being traditional small forward and is starting to find success in the role. The third-year player is second on the team in scoring (14.1 ppg) and third in rebounding (5.6 rpg) and has an incredible 7-foot-2 wingspan for his frame. Those factors should help against Melo and with PG-13 sidelined, Hollis-Jefferson should get some help from teammates if needed.
3. Can Nets contain Steven Adams?
As mentioned the Thunder have three perennial All-Stars, but it’s actually been the play of Adams that has sparked the team’s current win streak.
The center is emerging as the team’s third option on offense, averaging 22 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.7 spg on an unbelievable 82 percent shooting. The Nets have struggled to defend big men throughout the season, though they might have found some solutions in their dominant win over the Hawks on Monday.
Both of Brooklyn’s centers, Tyler Zeller and Jarrett Allen, responded with breakout performances in Atlanta and the team will need more of the same on Thursday night. If Zeller and Allen are factors on offense, it could help in slowing down Adams.
Projected lineup: Dinwiddie, Crabbe, Carroll, Hollis-Jefferson, Zeller
Injuries: Isaiah Whitehead (G League assignment) and D'Angelo Russell (left knee surgery) are OUT.