Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 33rd game of the season against the Oklahoma City in D.C. are TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) and guest Royce Young (@dailythunder), who contributes to the ESPN True Hoop Blog Daily Thunder.
Wizards Starters (4-28):
Garrett Temple, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene, Emeka Okafor
Thunder Starters (26-7):
Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Durant, Kendrick Perkins
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Thunder over the past week?)
@dailythunder: Their record might not suggest it, but the Thunder have actually been a bit erratic as of late. They saw a 12-game winning streak turn into two straight losses, then had to battle to win games against the Mavs and Suns at home (but did blow out the Rockets in Houston). But a rough loss at home to the Nets on January 2nd kind of exposed the fact the Thunder haven’t been playing all that well.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@dailythunder: Serge Ibaka is quite the enigma. Because he’s overrated in a lot of ways, and underrated in others. His defensive reputation is inflated because of the blocked shots, but he’s quietly become one of the best offensive forwards in basketball. No, for real. He has. He’s shooting 56.2 percent from the field, which is fifth in the league. And the four players in front of him rarely venture outside of the paint. Ibaka does most of his damage from mid-range. He averaged 13.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in December, showcasing the fact that he’s evolved into one of the West’s premier power forwards.
Q #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
@dailythunder: Obviously stopping the Thunder starts with trying to slow down Durant and Westbrook, but the most intriguing matchup to me is in the Perk-Nene scrap. Those two have built a little history with the recent Nuggets-Thunder battles. Perk has defended him really well in the past and with Nene being a focus for the Wizards, maybe this is one of those games where, maybe for one day, Thunder fans won’t gripe so much about No. 5.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@rashad20: Jordan Crawford had an opportunity to stretch the Wizards’ lead from one point to three with 15 seconds on the clock on Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets, but he missed both free throws in the first overtime (and as Amin Vafa of Bullets Forever observed, that was just one of many errors). After the misses, Crawford was visibly dejected, and his already hunched-over shoulders seemed to slump a bit more. Garrett Temple and Bradly Beal tried to console him, but he never regained his usual moxie. Last night against the Miami Heat, Crawford played like he still hadn’t gotten over those missed free throws. He shot 1-for-7 and scored just two points in 15 minutes of play. Tonight’s game against the Thunder promises to be an up-and-down, open-court affair, which ideally is right in Crawford’s wheelhouse. Any chance the Wizards have to defeat the Thunder, solely lies on the confident, hunched shoulders of Mr. Crawford.
The Thunder are favored by 11 points over the Wizards. The over/under is 193.5 points (via USA Today).
@rashad20: Almost a year ago (January 18th, to be exact), the Wizards defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 105-102. Westbrook and Durant scored 36 and 33 respectively, but John Wall (25 points, seven rebounds, eight assists), Nick Young (24 points) and Jordan Crawford (18 points) proved to be the difference. Coach Scott Brooks won’t let his team forget that, and despite playing the second game of a back-to-back (like the Wizards), OKC will win, 105-90.