This late afternoon edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” — Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers opponents — features tonight’s foe, the young, talented and highlight reel producing Oklahoma City Thunder.
This is going to be a very interesting game featuring two very young, athletic teams that shoot the rock poorly and play two completely different styles of ball. OKC values defense and has a certified, go-to NBA superstar in Kevin Durant to rely on when they need big buckets. The Sixers play absolutely no defense and are a “star-less” squad on which you never know who is going to hoist the big shot during a given game. Even though on paper Philadunkia’s home team appears to be an underdog in this one, we think the Sixers players may have a chip on their shoulder right now over today’s addition of Allen Iverson to the roster and they may be out to prove something. So we boldly predict a 76ers W tonight.
For a little more insight into the Thunder team the Sixers face tonight, we turn to our man Royce Young from thedailythunder.com to answer two questions on the Thunder from us here at Philadunkia as well as provide us with two points of analysis on this OKC squad from an insider’s perspective.
Philadunkia : Obviously the Thunder (9-8; with a winning road record) is off to a much better start in 2009-10 then anyone predicted. Give us a few of the keys to the surprising start to this season.
Royce Young @ thedailythunder.com :The No. 1 key for this team is defense. Everyone is committed. Thabo Sefolosha has been an absolute star on that end of the floor, but Kevin Durant has improved, Russell Westbrook understands help defense better and Jeff Green is stronger on the block. Other than defense, this team is learning how to win. Last year, OKC lost some 20 games by six or less. In crunch-time the Thunder’s the one making winning plays rather than watching the other team do it to them. Granted, some nights it hasn’t happened and the team has been somewhat inconsistent, but for the most part, this young team is now understanding what it takes not to just be competitive, but to win.
Philadunkia : The Thunder is one of the better defensive teams in the League. The Sixers are one of the worst. To be honest they’re actually pathetic and Durant may score 50 on Wednesday night. What has former Sixer Scotty Brooks done to get the young OKC team to buy in to the importance of defense and can he teach Eddie Jordan how to do it?
Royce Young @ thedailythunder.com : I don’t think it’s actually been Scott Brooks’ teaching, but more his convincing the players to buy into defense. OKC has some insanely talented players. But a lot of them wanted to just play on one end. Brooks is a smart defensive guy, but like I said, I think he’s got a group that wants to work and get better. So it’s made his job much, much easier. At times, Brooks has actually had to literally lock the gym doors and tell his players they couldn’t practice because he wanted them to take a break. These guys are hungry and desperately want to get better. Not that Brooks doesn’t deserve credit, because he does, but his club has made it easy on him. So if Eddie Jordan has a group eager to learn and get better, then I think he can pull it off. Most of defense is effort and Brooks has his guys understand how important that end of the floor is.
Two Points of Analysis from Royce Young @ thedailythunder.com :
1) Three-and-out. The Thunder is one of the worst teams shooting the 3-ball this year. OKC ranks 23rd in the league in percentage at 31 percent and makes just five a game. Kevin Durant hasn’t shot the ball well (24 percent) and typically good outside shooter Jeff Green is hitting just 29 percent.
2) “Sefocating” defense. Thabo Sefolosha is quietly putting together an outstanding year. But really he’s doing it all on one end. He’s caught a lot of folks’ attention with his lockdown of Kobe, Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili. And with the 76ers mainly relying on Andre Igoudala to score, Thabo will once again have a chance to earn his paycheck and stop the opposing team’s primary scorer.
Our thanks to Royce Young for his insights.