Philadelphia 76ers Vs Oklahoma City Thunder Preview
Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder splits the double team by Isaiah Canaan and Nerlens Noel of the Philadelphia 76ers. (Mark D. Smith - USA TODAY Sports)
  • When: Friday, 13 November 2015 at 8:00 PM EST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

In the past few seasons, being an Oklahoma City Thunder fan is a lot like being a flamingo. You're just waiting for the other shoe (foot) to drop. After a relatively healthy preseason and start to the season, the Thunder experienced their first injury of the season. With less than a minute left in the first half of Kevin Durant's homecoming against Washington, he was hit by Kris Humphries as he went up for a layup and landed awkwardly. After a couple steps, he grabbed the back of his leg, above the knee, and winced a little in pain. He finished out the half, but it was apparent he was favoring the leg.

At halftime, the team announced that Kevin Durant was unlikely to return due to a hamstring injury. An MRI the next day confirmed what the team had originally diagnosed: a strained left hamstring. Durant is due to be re-evaluated in 7-10 days. In the meantime, the Thunder will have to regroup for these next 3-5 games without Durant, which shouldn't be that difficult considering the lack of games Durant played last season.

This is the first meeting of the season between the Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Thunder swept the season series last year, but both games were relatively close, with the second meeting being one of the more memorable games of the season. In that game, the Thunder needed overtime and an amazing triple-double by Russell Westbrook (49 points/15 rebounds/10 assists) to vanquish the young Sixers squad.

The Opponent

The Philadelphia 76ers come into the game winless, with an 0-8 record. Its hard to imagine a team that has tanked for two season and gotten multiple first round picks could actually digress. But that is the current state of the 76ers. They have lost their first 8 games for a 2nd consecutive season and have injury issues to key positions. One of the few bright spots has been rookie center Jahlil Okafor, who has impressed in his young NBA career, averaging 20.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. Point guard TJ McConnell, an undrafted rookie free agent, has stepped in for the injury riddled backcourt, and has averaged 8.2 assists per game. Nerlens Noel continues to develop as a force on the defensive end, but still needs a lot of work on the offensive end. He'll be coming back from a wrist injury that caused him to miss the last two games. Nik Stauskas, who was obtained in the offseason via trade from the Sacramento Kings, has been the Sixers' best perimeter player and has regained the shooting touch he lost last year as a rookie. Small forward Jerami Grant continues to be a serviceable player, but remains highly inconsistent. Off the bench, the 76ers feature what can be described as a good D-League team: Isaiah Canaan, JaKarr Sampson, Hollis Thompson, and Richaun Holmes.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Philadelphia 76ers

  • PG - TJ McConnell
  • SG - Nik Stauskas
  • SF - Jerami Grant
  • PF - Nerlens Noel
  • C - Jahlil Okafor

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG - Russell Westbrook
  • SG - Dion Waiters
  • SF - Andre Roberson
  • PF - Serge Ibaka
  • C - Steven Adams

3 Things to Watch For

  1. Starting Line-Up - Thunder head coach Billy Donovan has a couple options to replace Durant in the starting line-up. In the 2nd half of the Wizards game, he wanted to start Dion Waiters, but an upset stomach prevented Waiters from making it back out on the floor before the third quarter started. Another option is to go with the line-up that started the 2nd half, with Kyle Singler replacing Durant. A third option is to start Anthony Morrow at the SG position. With as little as Morrow is playing, this would maintain the rotation and would provide the starting line-up with a floor spacer.
  2. Trap Game Potential - The Thunder have already gifted one team their first victory of the season (Houston). The Thunder should know that Philadelphia can come to play against anyone, like they did last season when they held a 15 point lead in the first quarter in Oklahoma City and forced overtime despite Russell Westbrook having a video game-like triple double. For as bad as the 76ers are, they are still an NBA team and can win games on any given night.
  3. Turnovers - Turnovers are like candy to young, athletic teams who happen to be struggling. If the Thunder turn the ball over, this can play into the 76er's hand and cause them to stay in the game. Limit the turnovers and the game should easily go in the Thunder's favor.
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