Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Opening Night: A Gift from the NBA

The NBA season kicks off tonight for the Thunder as they will be taking on the Milwaukee Bucks at home tonight. Milwaukee has already played one game (a 108-95 loss to the Chicago Bulls), and this game will be the second of a two game stretch for them. The Thunder will be fresh as their last preseason game was 5 days ago.

The Bucks, much like the Thunder, did not have a lot of success in the preseason and ended with a 1-7 record. The team last year was known for its weak defense allowing 103.9 points per game and a 48% field goal percentage. Their new coach, Scott Skiles, is more defensive minded than his predecessor, but with a lack of defensive talent on the team is hard to imagine there will be much improvement. If the Thunder hit anywhere close to that 48% field goal percentage, this game will certainly be a lock in their favor.

Milwaukee has two big scoring threats in Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson. OKC doesn't have to shut down either of them to win this game, but reducing the production of one of the two would go a long ways towards victory. Outside of Redd and Jefferson, the Bucks don't have a lot of double digit scoring threats. This will aid in the Thunder's defensive schemes which will be important as Oklahoma City is also a little weak in the defensive standpoint.

This game can really be seen as a gift from the NBA. The Bucks will be tired from playing last night and then will have to travel from Chicago to Oklahoma City for tonight's game. The Oklahoma City crowd will be loud and boisterous for the season opener of a team that they can finally call their own (rather than a team that they were "borrowing"). The atmosphere will electrify the Thunder, and I expect to see strong performances across the board. Look for the Thunder to put triple digits on the board while the Bucks struggle to get to 90.

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