Russell Westbrook, Thunder Look to Keep Pedal to Floor Against the Suns

Russell Westbrook, Thunder Look to Keep Pedal to Floor Against the Suns

The Thunder are rolling, winners of their last two games by an average margin of nearly 24 points. They’ve won eight of their last 10 games. And more importantly, it’s looking easier now by several orders of magnitude than it did in October in November.

They haven’t 100% sorted through their issues — which team has at this point in the season? — but they’re starting to look pretty dangerous.

And though the Suns don’t have the top-to-bottom talent the Thunder do, young sharpshooter/flamethrower Devin Booker makes for a tough guard. Although 15-26 on the season, Phoenix has more than tread water lately, notching six of their last 11.

For the Thunder, the game plan begins and ends on shutting down Booker. The only other feasible and consistent option the Suns have, TJ Warren, is questionable for the game with an illness at time of writing.

Even if he plays, the scouting report on Warren, a Roberson-esque perimeter shooter, plays right into OKC’s hands defensively: funnel him inside and introduce him to one Mister Steven Adams.

With no Andre Roberson around to make life difficult for Booker, it’ll be a team effort defensively. If George remains at his natural position at the three (rather than shifting to the two and manning up Booker for the game), then the plan should be about throwing multiple looks and multiple bodies at Booker all game long.

Fortunately for the Thunder, versatile and switch-y defense is what coach Billy Donovan has been a proponent of.

In terms of net rating, the Suns are one of the NBA’s worst teams on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they manage just 102 points per 100 possessions — good for 27th in the league.

And, defensively, they’re even worse: 29th in the league, giving up nearly 109 points in the same span.

By those same metrics, and especially in the last ten games, the Thunder’s offensive rating has been absolutely off the charts at 117. Do the math: if these teams perform up to their billing, it could get ugly fast. But you didn’t need advanced metrics or arithemetic to tell you that.

This is simply a game that the Thunder need to go out and win. Continuing to foster momentum and continuity — and thus chemistry –is paramount to this squad and their hopes of retaining the long-term services of Paul George and, in the shorter-term, Carmelo Anthony.

Something to watch for: Tyler Ulis, starting point guard for the Phoenix Suns, is all of 5’9″. At Westbrook’s listed height of 6’3″ — and I believe that’s short by about an inch — that’s a six inch height disparity.

Ulis has never been known for his defensive prowess, so expect Russell Westbrook to put up numbers tonight. If you’re a daily fantasy player, get him in your lineup(s) immediately.

News + notes:

  • Terrance Ferguson will garner his third-straight start after impressive showings against the Lakers and Clippers. The Thunder’s rookie scored 11 against the Clippers, which is probably a more likely line than the 24 he poured in against the Lakers.
  • Alex Abrines is questionable for tonight’s game and will be evaluated at shootaround.
  • Andre Roberson remains out with patellar tendinitis in his knee.

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