Wizards vs. Thunder preview: Say hello to the Thunder, who are doing just fine without Harden

Kevin C. Cox

A night after facing the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Wizards now have to gear up to face the Thunder at the Verizon Center.

Tonight, the Wizards host the best team in the NBA as the Thunder come to town. Even after trading away James Harden, Oklahoma City keeps on rolling. Kevin Martin has been an ideal stopgap replacement for Harden while Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka have all improved their games this year. If you were hoping that the Thunder might have flaws the Wizards could expose in his absence, you're going to be disappointed tonight.

That said, there's always reasons for hope. After all, the Wizards did beat the Heat earlier this year. And let's not forget, the Wizards beat OKC last season with Harden still on the squad, thanks to Flip Saunders and the late Tupac Shakur, so anything could happen tonight.

Where, When, and What Channel: The game will start at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center. You can watch it on Comcast SportsNet.

Why You Should Care: Kevin Durant is in town. Even if you're not a Wizards fan (and you probably are since you're reading this) you should care.

Remember when the Thunder were awful? We do. Kinda weird how one team has made the NBA Finals since then and the other team hasn't won more than 26 games.


What They Do Well: As you'd probably expect, the Thunder are the best team in the NBA in offensive efficiency. Even without Harden, they're still getting by because Durant is still Durant, and the rest of the team is getting the job done as well. The only player on the Thunder that gets somewhat regular minutes that's shooting under 40 percent this season is Eric Maynor (the Wizards, by contrast, have seven such players). They shoot well, and they get to the line even better. So even when their shot isn't falling (which could happen tonight as the Thunder slog through the second-half of a East Coast back-to back) they can still get easy points at the free throw line.

What They Do Poorly: There's only one glaring flaw with Oklahoma City, and it's turnovers. They sport the highest turnover rate in the NBA, and lead in that area by a comfortable margin. Honestly, a lot of it can be attributed to their proficient offense. They're so good at generating scoring opportunities that it leads to more chances for the defense to create turnovers. Tonight's a night where it might not be a bad idea for the Wizards to just go after the ball with reckless abandon. The Thunder are going to make shots regardless of what defense they're facing. Might as well try to limit the number of possessions they have to score.

Is Kevin Durant depressed about the Redskins? Yes he is.

How the Wizards Match Up With Them: Even once you strip away the rampant talent disadvatages here, the Thunder post major stylistic challenges for the Wizards. The Wizards have been at their best against teams who don't get to the line much (every team the Wizards have beaten except the Heat are in the bottom third in the league in free throw rate). When they can keep a team off the line, their defense is sound enough to keep them competitive. They won't be able to do that against guys like Durant, Westbrook and Martin. Plus, the Thunder are going to push the pace, which doesn't suit the Wizards' strengths either. While you always want to remain hopeful, tonight's game does not shape up well at all.

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