- When: Tuesday, 10 November 2015 at 7:00 PM EST
- Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
Here are the facts: Kevin Durant will be a free agent at the end of this season. Kevin Durant is from the Maryland and Washington DC area. The Oklahoma City Thunder have yet to win a championship. Kevin Durant is still a member of the Thunder. The Thunder play the Washington Wizards tonight. That much is known to be true. Beyond that, everything else is conjecture.
Durant will likely be greeted by a cavalcade of reporters today. The media passes given out for this one game in November will likely mirror the media passes given out for a first round match-up in the playoffs. Durant will likely answer some questions, be annoyed by some questions, and dismiss most other questions, while looking annoyed and disgusted by the process. The truth is no one is going to find out Durant's plans for July tonight. He'll be verbally poked and prodded, but the media will likely leave out tonight with the same information they had coming in.
In between all of that is the actual game. Both teams come into tonight have lost 3 of their last 4 games. Both teams are contenders within their respective conferences, so righting the ship is a goal for both squads early in the season. The Thunder swept the season series last year, as the apple of the Wizards' eyes, Durant, netted 34 points in both games. In the second meeting, Durant played decoy with the score tied at 103 in overtime. With the Wizards' defense keyed in on Durant, Russell Westbrook broke free as the lane opened up and drove all the way to the basket for the game winning score.
The Wizards come into the game with a 3-3 record, having lost three of their last four contests. While they are middle of the pack offensively (102.5 points per game), they are near the bottom of the league in points allowed (108.0 ppg, 26th in the league). Washington is led by their backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall is trending towards being one of the best point guards in the league, averaging 19.2 ppg and 8.8 assists, while Beal is leading the Wizards in scoring at 22.7 ppg on 47% shooting from 3-point territory. Beal is a game-time decision due to a bruised left shoulder, but went through shootaround today and will likely play. Second year SF Otto Porter Jr. steps in for the departed Paul Pierce, and has done a good job in providing scoring and defense from the wing. Up front, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries give the Wizards a strong front line who struggles with speed. Off the bench, Gary Neal, Drew Gooden, Nene, Ramon Sessions, and Jared Dudley give the Wizards a deep, veteran reserve crop.
Probable Starting Line-Ups
- PG - John Wall
- SG - Bradley Beal
- SF - Otto Porter Jr.
- PF - Kris Humphries
- C - Marcin Gortat
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG - Russell Westbrook
- SG - Andre Roberson
- SF - Kevin Durant
- PF - Serge Ibaka
- C - Steven Adams
3 Things to Watch For
- Attack the Post - The Wizards have some of the most porous post defense in the league. They don't have a bona fide rim protector and rank 22nd in the league in blocks per game (5.0 BPG). Surprisingly, John Wall has more blocks than the Wizards' top 5 post players combined (Gortat, Humphries, Nene, Gooden, and DeJuan Blair). Enes Kanter, Durant, and Westbrook should all have big games in terms of points in the paint.
- Backcourt defense - The Thunder have struggled with talented backcourts in the past. They had trouble keeping up with Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler in their game against the Bulls and have struggled with the Wall/Beal backcourt in prior seasons. As athletically-gifted as Westbrook and Andre Roberson are, they don't do a very good job of consistently staying in front of the player they are defending, especially in pick and roll situations. Eliminate the backcourt threat, and the Wizards struggle to find scoring elsewhere on their roster.
- Ignoring the noise - The Durant saga will be a distraction the entire season. But it will especially be a distraction tonight. Because of LeBron James' return to Cleveland last season, the narrative is that Durant could possibly go back home to play with the Wizards. And that is a distinct possibility. But in the now, Durant plays for the Thunder, and he has stressed that on numerous occasions. The Thunder have done a good job so far in dismissing the distraction, but this is the epicenter.