Brooklyn Nets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Brooklyn Nets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Al Bello/Getty Images

After firing Avery Johnson three games ago, the Brooklyn Nets come into their matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder with two wins and a loss under P.J. Carlesimo.

Of course, those two wins came against the Charlotte Bobcats and the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the loss was a 31-pointer to the San Antonio Spurs. That seems like it's worth mentioning.

Oklahoma City, meanwhile, has won three in a row since their Christmas Day loss to the Miami Heat, as their offense has just exploded in the past three games.

They'll look to keep things going, and it seems as if that's entirely likely against this Nets team that just posted a 5-11 December.

 

Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: NBA League Pass

Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (24-6), Brooklyn Nets (16-15)

Betting Line: Oklahoma City (-10)

Injury Report: Gerald Wallace, Questionable (Knee)

 

Key Storyline: Brooklyn's Coaching Search

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets seem adamant that they're sticking with P.J. Carlesimo for the rest of the season, that is, unless Phil Jackson pokes his head up and gives them an indication that he'd be willing to come in and coach the team.

So far, Carlesimo has been fine for the Nets, although their horrible loss to the San Antonio Spurs might be the kick-starter to change the minds of the people in the front office.

This is going to be another game for Carlesimo's ability as a head coach to be judged by. Should the Nets have a decent game, or improbably come away with a win, it seems as if Carlesimo will have a good chance at keeping his job.

If there's another blowout in the books, Mikhail Prokhorov might just give Phil Jackson a blank check.

 

Key Matchup: Deron Williams vs. Russell Westbrook

Here we have it, two of the most criticized point guards in the NBA going up against each other, taking too many shots and doling out too few assists, that is, if you want to subscribe to the old-school definition of a point guard.

This has been, by far, Williams' worst year since he became known as an "elite" point guard, shooting below 40 percent from the floor and running far too much in isolation to get an offensive flow going.

Part of that is due to Avery Johnson's offense; part of that has just been bad shooting and decision making by Williams.

The strange thing is that Williams has had a similar season to Westbrook in terms of efficiency, yet Westbrook has almost been championed by people defending the new breed of point guards or a positionless offense.

The biggest difference has been that Westbrook has been much better at shooting the three, he's been a bit better at getting the offense to flow and his defense is far and away better than Williams'.

Still, both guys are going to shoot a lot, and if either of them gets hot, it could very well end up deciding the game.

 

X-Factors: Kevin Martin and Andray Blatche

Kevin Martin has blossomed into a legitimate threat to win the Sixth Man of the Year award, which might as well be renamed the "Whoever is Coming off Oklahoma City's Bench First" award for the next few seasons.

Martin is either going to come in and hit three-pointers, or he's going to come in and hit a lot of three-pointers. There's no stopping it.

He's hitting an impressive 45.4 percent of his three-pointers, which lines up nicely with his 45.4 field-goal percentage.

Andray Blatche, on the other hand, has been one of the more surprising players of the season.

Not only is he not the most unbearable player in the NBA to watch, but he's also been just on the tolerable side of immature/mature divide.

Blatche is averaging just 10.4 points per game, but he's shooting a career-high 48 percent and actually playing well in the post and on defense.

I never thought I'd say this after last season, but the Thunder have to watch out for Blatche if he's got a good game rolling.

 

Prediction 

Oklahoma City is averaging a daunting 116 points per game over the course of their past three wins. They have played the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns, three of the five worst defensive teams in the NBA, but it's impressive nonetheless.

They're on too much of a roll, and Brooklyn has too many offensive problems for their surprisingly effective defense to even out.

Brooklyn won't be able to score enough, and they won't have the defense in the right place to hold back this explosive Thunder offense.

Not only does Oklahoma City win, but they cover the spread as well.

Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Brooklyn Nets 88

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