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Wizards and Thunder face off in OKC
The Wizards will continue their road trip on Sunday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7:00 P.M. Washington has not won in Oklahoma City since December 27, 2008, losing nine straight. The Thunder are 21-9 since these two teams met in Washington, with Oklahoma City winning 134-111.
Chesapeake Energy Arena | 7:00 P.M. | NBC Sports Washington | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Tomas Satoransky, G – Bradley Beal, F – Trevor Ariza, F – Jeff Green, C – Thomas Bryant
Thunder: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Terrance Ferguson, F – Paul George, F – Jerami Grant, C – Steven Adams
Wizards: Dwight Howard (aggravated gluteal soreness – out), John Wall (left heel soreness – out), Markieff Morris (transient cervical neuropraxia – out)
Thunder: Alex Abrines (personal – out), Andre Roberson (left patellar tendon – out)
Wizards up for tough task
Friday’s result against the Heat was not what the Wizards wanted, but head coach Scott Brooks said after the game he was proud of his team. Washington played hard enough and created good enough shots to win, and the team has had good energy in its last four games. Once it was announced that John Wall and Keef Morris would miss significant time, the Wizards have collectively stepped up. They’ve had to play a bit slower and rely on ball movement, while the defense has been active.
The Wizards rank in the top half of the league in offensive and defensive efficiency during that span, including second in assist-to-turnover ratio, tied for ninth in offensive rebounding percentage, and eighth in second chance points. The return of Otto Porter Jr. has helped, and he’s expected to have a bigger role in Sunday’s game after being limited to 20 minutes off the bench in his first two games back.
Thunder defense will be a challenge
The Thunder have the NBA’s top defense, giving up only 101.4 points per 100 possessions. At home, in which the Thunder are 13-4 this season, that number is even better, allowing only 100.5 points per 100 possessions. Oklahoma City also ranks in the top 10 in all rebounding categories, with Russell Westbrook (10.8), Steven Adams (10.2) and Paul George (8.1) combining for almost 30 rebounds per game. The Wizards have been one of the league’s worst rebounding teams this season, and they’ll need to step up on the glass to win on Sunday.
The Thunder lead the NBA in forced turnovers, just ahead of the Wizards with 18.4 opponent turnovers per game. They also lead the league in points off turnovers at 21.0 per game. Westbrook, George, Jerami Grant, Terrance Ferguson, Nerlens Noel, and Hamidou Diallo are all strong defenders who impact the game with their length. The Wizards have been one of the NBA’s best teams at ball control, ranking sixth in turnover percentage (13.5%). Washington will need to limit its turnovers and get the most out of every possession.
Both teams have clear focal points offensively
It’s no secret that teams are loading up on Bradley Beal now with John Wall out for the rest of the season. In the four games since Wall went out, Beal is averaging 27.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. Some teams will double team Beal, others play him straight up, and some send extra help when he drives. He’s growing as a playmaker still, and his passing and decision-making often decides games offensively. The Thunder will likely put a mix of Westbrook, Ferguson, and George on Beal, trying to keep him out of a rhythm. Beal is well on his way to his second straight All-Star Game, and a winning performance in Oklahoma City would only add to his impressive resume.
Similarly, the Thunder know the Wizards will be aiming to stop Westbrook, who is averaging a triple double this season once again, and another perennial All-Star George. The former MVP is not shooting well from the field this season, especially in his last 15 games (37.6% FG, 24.2% 3PT, 63.4% FT). Still, Westbrook is one of the best all-around players in the league, and his defense has not slowed down even if his offensive efficiency has hit a rough patch. The Wizards will have Tomas Satoransky start on Westbrook, with Beal and others getting time against the exhausting Westbrook. Luckily for the Thunder, George is having an All-NBA season – 27.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.2 steals per game on 45.2% FG, 38.3% 3PT, and 83.0% FT. George is now the number one option offensively, and the Wizards will need to keep him in check, especially from beyond the arc. Outside of George and with Alex Abrines not expected to play, the Thunder do not have many great shooters, ranking last in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 32.0%.