By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
The Thunder are in Detroit tonight, tipping at 6:30 p.m. against the winless Pistons. Here’s a pregame primer:
Three OKC things to watch
1. Energy - Basketball, so much of the time, is about energy and effort. If you don’t bring it, you’re likely to lose. OKC is a team known for relative consistency in its high-energy play. But, like anyone, there can be lapses. And Monday’s game provides the perfect stage for a letdown. Winners of four straight, the Thunder have to go on a silly one-game road trip to Detroit, facing the winless Pistons will likely thinking more about Wednesday’s nationally televised home showdown with Memphis, a hated rival who has won five straight games. Watch the energy level early.
2. Good Westbrook/Bad Westbrook - Oftentimes, he’s the barometer for this team. Do you get the Russell Westbrook who shot 10-15 last night, dropping 27 points, 10 assists and six rebounds? Or do you get the guy from one game before, who went 3-10 for a quiet 10 points during a prolonged struggle against the Pistons at home? Usually you can tell within the first five minutes.
3. Serge Iblocka - The scoring is up, currently sitting at 14.6 points per game, five more than his previous career-high. But Ibaka’s defense is what defines him. And it’s been great over the past three games, averaging 4.6 blocks per contest, including a season-high seven against Cleveland. That should continue against a Pistons frontline that he dominated three nights ago.
Three Detroit players to watch
1. Tayshaun Prince (small forward) - The wily veteran is in his 11th season in Detroit, an eternity by NBA standards. And he’s still doing his typical things, drilling a few threes and bothering opposing scorers. And with his ridiculous wingspan, Prince always presents an interesting (and fun to watch) matchup for Kevin Durant.
2. Greg Monroe (center) - Somebody’s got to lead this team in scoring. Right now, it’s Monroe at 15.1 points per game.
3. Andre Drummond (center) - The rookie from Connecticut was impressive against the Thunder on Friday, scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds in 21 efficient minutes. He hasn’t scored more than seven in his six other games, but from what he showed in OKC, I see no reason the winless and rebuilding Pistons shouldn’t give him extended run. Starting Monday.
Stat of the game
Detroit is giving up 102.9 points per game (fifth worst in the league) and only scoring 91.4 (sixth worst in the league).