OKC Thunder game preview: Rui Hachimura #8 of the Washington Wizards is pulled from the game against the Dallas Mavericks (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The OKC Thunder play the Washington Wizards in the fifth of their eight seeding games. The Wizards are the only winless team in the bubble and as a result, are no longer in contention for the playoffs.
The impact of the Wizards being eliminated could go a couple of directions. Washington could come out and play their best bubble basketball because the pressure is off. If they do play spoiler the impact on their last three opponents could result in lower playoff berths
The other option is the Wiz realize their season is over and suffer a severe drop off in their intensity. In this scenario, a massive blowout win by the OKC Thunder is probable. Something the Thunder would welcome after falling flat against the Memphis Grizzlies.
To be fair the Thunder were missing Steven Adams, Mike Muscala, Dennis Schroder, and Terrance Ferguson for the Grizzlies game. They also had just beaten the best team in the West and were ripe for a letdown game.
The Washington Wizards are very thin at both guard positions. Isaac Bonga and Ish Smith are starting guards, neither of which are near the ilk of John Wall and Bradley Beal. In the last game against the New Orleans Pelicans Jrue Holiday had his way with 28 points.
Chris Paul is going to want to right the ship in OKC and will therefore have a point to prove. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has endured a tough stretch, particularly his last two games, where he shot combined 6-of-24. Suffice to say, SGA will be keen to re-establish himself and get back on track.
The Wizards only strength at the moment is in their big men. Rookie Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant, if available, are really the only constant threats on offense. If Danilo Gallinari and Nerlens Noel hold their own against these two, this should be an easy victory for the Thunder.
Mike Muscala will also be a welcome addition back into the OKC Thunder squad. With Adams potentially unavailable, the Thunder need the minutes to rest Noel. Muscala also provides a different defensive challenge for the Wizards with his 3-point shooting.
Even without Schroder, the Thunder bench of Hamidou Diallo, Abdel Nader, Darius Bazley, and Andre Roberson need to dominate a bench which would be a solid G-League team with players like Admiral Schofield and Jerian Grant.
If the bench can carry their weight, they have the chance for extended minutes, giving their starters an opporunity to rest. This will be particularly beneficial with this match given the one back-to-back set occurs Sunday-Monday for the Thunder with the red hot Suns the Monday match.
There are going to be few breaks for the rest of the season so any extra rest helps.
The oddsmakers seem to be leaning toward the Wizards mailing in their effort and subsequently the spread is 10 points with an over/under of 225.5.
As mentioned previously, there could be two totally different versions of the Washington Wizards, depending on their mindset.
If the players come out playing for next year’s contracts it will require a focused defensive OKC Thunder club for the full 48 minutes.
Washington is more than happy to get into an up and down battle. Therefore, locking them down early and delivering a message that the Thunder intend to battle all 48 minutes could dissuade them. These players aren’t likely invested in going to that level knowing there is no benefit other than pride since they’ll have two more games after Sunday before they leave the bubble.
That’s why the more likely scenario is the Wizards will not risk pushing their better players in a game which means absolutely nothing for this season. With a smaller break between seasons, they need to start planning for the 2020-21 season.
With the Jazz losing to the Nuggets the idle OKC Thunder moved up to fifth by virtue of owning the tiebreak. They are one game out of fourth is in the fifth seed in the Western Conference. They are a single game behind the fourth-seeded Rockets.
Houston is also in action Sunday, playing the Kings. Since the Thunder have 26 losses and the Rockets have 25, for OKC to move up they need Houston to suffer another loss.
The teams have met 22 times in the regular season as they are currently named with the OKC Thunder holding a 14-8 advantage. This season the teams met once (October 25th) and the Wizards won 97-85.
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Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington Wizards, Steven Adams, NBA, Dennis Schröder, Mike Muscala
Actu monde – US – OKC Thunder – Wizards preview: Opportunity knocks