East meets west Friday as the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Tonight’s contest sees top-ten defenses and bottom-third offenses mesh to decide a winner. After starting 5-0, Philadelphia has since gone 2-3. The Sixers’ lone wins during that stretch come vs. Eastern Conference rebuild projects Cleveland and Charlotte. Further, Joel Embiid’s maintenance schedule has cost the versatile big two 2019 appearances. Embiid rested Wednesday during Philly’s 112-97 road loss vs. Orlando: the Magic entered with just three wins. Looking to rebound following an off day, the 76ers stand fifth among Eastern teams and are 3-4 away from home.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City’s record hasn’t reached .500 this year. Currently, the Thunder has lost three of four with their lone recent win coming vs. disjointed Golden State. While the west has become mine-laden with top teams and tandem talent, OKC dropped a Tuesday road encounter 111-85 vs. Indiana. The Pacers exacerbated each current Thunder flaw, holding Billy Donovan’s men to 35.4 overall shooting. For those keeping score, Donovan holds the second-highest ‘hot-seat’ odds among NBA coaches. Sporting new faces, a fading Chris Paul, banged-up Steven Adams and rebuild plans, OKC’s facelift may culminate before spring. The Thunder are 4-3 this year from home and stand 11th in the west.
Philly struggling of late minus key outside threatsWhile Philadelphia ranks #23 overall in three-pointers made, J.J. Redick’s absence intensifies Ben Simmons’ perimeter struggles. In a league dictated by space-and-pace, the Sixers reliance on post ups and mid-range shots have created several slim losses this year for Brett Brown’s men. As shown recently by Orlando, especially when Embiid sits, leading opponents eventually overcome Philly’s massive lineup with persistent outside shooting and composed play. Even as the 76ers’ limit three-point attempts and makes at a high clip, their construct proves consistent winning is tricky circa 2019 minus solid marksmanship. The Sixers’ bottom-five turnover rate also handicaps the team in clutch situations.
Tuesday, Orlando forced 15 turnovers and 27 fouls from Philly to gain a decisive plus-17 FTM advantage. Those 76er miscues came when Orlando’s motion found Harris, Simmons, Horford and Richardson out of position.
During their 112-97 setback, Philly made just 26.7 percent of its 30 3PT. Al Horford’s two of eight night from deep was overshadowed by Nic Vucevic (25 pts) and Aaron Gordon’s (18) double-double, five of nine 3PT combined efficiency.
Versus a less physical OKC group, especially with Adams ailing, rested Philadelphia’s rebounding and interior strengths should manifest. With or without Embiid, who is listed as questionable for Fri., Philadelphia rosters superior talent compared to OKC’s light bench and transitory starting five.
OKC’s transition off to subpar startYears of fizzled playoff runs sparked a loud offseason exodus from Russell Westbrook and Paul George. And as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shines, Chris Paul’s on-court indifference sees this Thunder unit defending well, but unable to keep pace with a fast-breaking league. Just past his standout prime, 34-year-old Paul’s best current fit is with a contender. So, commend Paul’s professionalism for leading OKC’s rebuilding roster given his circumstances.
In the midst of Sam Presti’s nascent blueprint, Oklahoma City’s #26 offense wastes the team’s top-ten defense. Also, OKC’s #20 pace and rebounding issues have limited scoring opportunities this season. Meanwhile, the Thunder bench is still gaining experience and presents stark drop off from the team’s respectable opening group.
An internal drive and optimism.— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) November 14, 2019
🎥 // today's practice report pic.twitter.com/cGoa8LA4cQ
Indiana harassed Oklahoma City’s 3PT game Tues., holding the Thunder to six of 25 3PM. The Pacers also outrebounded OKC by ten while physically checking Paul, Schroeder and Alexander. Expect similar defensive pressure Fri. from much larger Philadelphia.
Trends courtesy of Covers.com
- 76ers are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games following a straight up loss.
- 76ers are 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 vs. Western Conference.
- 76ers are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games following an ATS loss.
- 76ers are 36-16-2 ATS in their last 54 vs. NBA Northwest.