Sixers with no answers for Raptors in fourth
The Sixers (14-29) will try to rebound in the second half of a back-to-back set when they face the scorching Oklahoma City Thunder (34-10) on Saturday night.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (CSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:
1. The replacements
The Sixers had trouble containing the Toronto Raptors in a 104-95 loss on Friday (see story), and now things get even tougher against the Thunder.
Oklahoma City has the best record in the Western Conference and is currently riding a six-game win streak. That success has mainly come on the back of MVP candidate Kevin Durant, who is averaging a whopping 39.8 points on 58.3 percent shooting over his last six games.
However, Durant missed the Thunder’s 101-83 win in Boston on Friday with a shoulder injury and is uncertain to play against the Sixers. With fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook sidelined while he continues to recover from knee surgery, it marked the first time in Thunder history that the duo have missed the same game.
Not to worry for OKC. Backups Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb have proven they can handle fill-in duty. Jones started for Durant against the Celtics and scored 10 points, grabbed four rebounds and had three steals. Lamb continued to provide a spark off the bench and scored 19 points in a season-high 30 minutes against the C’s, while Jackson is averaging 13.5 points and 4.0 assists in place of Westbrook.
The Sixers must prepare as if Durant will play, but they can’t relax if the Thunder are down their two All-Stars yet again.
2. Running on empty
While the Sixers need to focus on slowing down the Thunder’s potent attack, they also need to find a way to get their own offense going again.
The Sixers’ 101.3 points per game marks a season low. They’ve reached that point by averaging just 93.6 points per game over their last seven contests to compile a 2-5 record during that stretch.
A lot of the Sixers’ recent offensive issues have coincided with Thaddeus Young’s numbers coming back to earth. After averaging 20.1 points and 6.8 rebounds on 52.9 percent shooting during December, Young is averaging 16.8 points and 5.2 boards a game on 44.9 percent shooting in January.
Combine Young’s drop-off with the Sixers’ already thin bench being hit hard by injuries, and the team’s scoring punch has taken a major hit.
3. Don’t be scared
Despite the Sixers’ recent issues on offense, they continue to take the ball to the basket. They still rank second in the NBA in points in the paint per game with 51.4.
The Sixers can’t lose sight of that against the Thunder. OKC limits teams to 97.9 points per game. The Thunder are particularly stout in the paint where big men Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins turn away opponents with regularity. The duo combines for 2.97 of the Thunder’s 6.1 blocks a game, which ranks second in the league.
The Sixers can’t be deterred by the Thunder’s lurking shot blockers. They should even look to attack the rim more to try and get their opponents in foul trouble and get some easy points at the free-throw line.
Tony Wroten (ankle) and Arnett Moultrie (ankle) are day to day.
Brandon Davies (finger), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Jason Richardson (knee) are out.
Durant (shoulder) is day to day.
Westbrook (knee) is out for the Thunder.
5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost eight straight times to the Thunder.
• Two of the last three meetings between the teams at the Wells Fargo Center have gone to overtime.
• Durant currently has nine consecutive games of at least 30 points. One more would tie him for the record with Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Tracy McGrady.
• Young averaged 19.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in two games against the Thunder last season.