The big question is will he or won’t he?
Kevin Durant leads the league in scoring and is on a tear that has captivated NBA fans everywhere. But Durant missed his first game of the year last night in Boston with a shoulder injury. His status for tonight is undecided but Durant’s presence, or lack thereof, greatly impacts seeing tonight in 3-Dei.
1. The Durant effect
Durant cannot be stopped and slowing him down is equally unachievable. He's averaging 31.0 points this season and in the month of January that number is at nearly 37 ppg.
Russell Westbrook last played on Christmas day and a knee injury has had him sidelined since. Expectations for the Thunder’s season dropped with Westbrook’s injury, but Durant wanted no part of that and his teammates have followed. The Thunder are 11-5 without Westbrook and lead the West with a 34-10 record.
2. Pace and pass
OKC will not only run with you but will also defend you. The Thunder average 105 points, fifth-highest in the NBA. They also get after it defensively, holding opponents to 98 points, which is seventh-best in the league.
Brett Brown preaches pace and pass. Pace will happen without effort. Pass, however, is an absolute must if the Sixers are going to stay competitive with Oklahoma City. The Sixers had 23 assists on Friday and just 10 turnovers. That is a winning formula on most nights.
3. Contain Ibaka
If Durant cannot go the Sixers need to lock down on Serge Ibaka, who led the Thunder in scoring with 21 points on 9 of 13 shooting on Friday night.
Ibaka averages 14.5 points per game this season but he has scored 20 or more in four of his last six games. He shoots 52 percent from the floor and grabs nine rebounds on average. Durant is the man, but in his absence Ibaka will try to follow Durant's lead and rise to the occasion.