Friday, October 24, 2008

Finishing Up Strong

Hanging tough for one half, Oklahoma City showed off their youth against Phoenix. Unfortunately the visiting Thunder ran up against the Suns' duo of Nash and Stoudemire in the third quarter before falling 102-93. OKC dropped to 1-5 and ends the preseason on the road tonight against the LA Lakers.

As the NBA favorite to win a title, Los Angeles poses the strongest test for the Thunder. Kobe Bryant might be held out again, and that may be the only hope OKC has of ending the exhibition season on a winning note. LA has five wins in a row while averaging just over 96 points a contest, three better than the Thunder. The Lakers are the better defensive team as well, but the main thing OKC is concerned with is health heading into the regular season.

Three regulars and three others were held out of the Phoenix game, and the story for tonight's matchup will be who plays and who doesn't. Earl Watson, Chris Wilcox, and Joe Smith didn't see action against the Suns, and each will be counted on for big minutes this season. Wilcox and Smith are nursing injuries, and Watson had started each of the first five preseason games. D.J. White, Kyle Weaver, and Mouhamed Sene also didn't play due to various ailments.

While injuries are an issue, one good thing coming out of the loss was the appearance of center Robert Swift. OKC can use some good news, and the 7'1'', 270 pound Swift provided that yesterday. Four points and six rebounds normally wouldn't draw much attention, but it will for a player who has missed nearly all of the last two seasons. He can provide a lift for the Thunder, and the 16 minutes against Phoenix was a good start.

Russell Westbrook and and Johan Petro did most of the damage, combining for 39 points and 11 rebounds. Poor shooting affected Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, who only managed an 11-27 night. Those numbers will definitely need to come up for the Thunder to stay competitive, and carbert will provide the highlights tomorrow of the Lakers' contest.

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