Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Do You Believe In ...

This evening, the Orlando Magic come to town to take on the Thunder. The Magic are 4-3 so far this season and have won 4 of their last 5 games (they lost on Monday to the Trailblazers 106-99). In their five games in November, they've never put less than 96 points on the board, so the Thunder had better be prepared for a high scoring matchup.

There is good news for OKC in this matchup as the Magic have yet to win a road game this season. That statement is pretty misleading as Orlando has only been the away team for one game: a Halloween loss to the Grizzlies. But if they can lose in Memphis then they surely can lose in Oklahoma City.

The Orlando Magic scoring-wise are a good model for what the Thunder need to become. They have their leading scorer, Dwight Howard, averaging 23.0 points per game. This is close to what can be expected out of Durant. Then the Magic have two players averaging above 15 points per game in Hedo Turkoglu (18.3) and Rashard Lewis (16.0). Finally, Orlando has two other players averaging double digit points: Mickael Pietrus (12.9) and Jameer Nelson (10.9).

The Thunder, in comparison, only have two other double digit scorers and neither is average 15 points per game: Jeff Green (12.4) and Russell Westbrook (10.4). Even if Durant put up 37 points like he did against the Pacers every game it wouldn't be enough if this is all the support he gets. Green is averaging about 2 more points per game this year compared to last but his FGP has dropped 5. If he can get that number back up, that'll add another point or two to his average getting him close to 15 points per game average.

The question is where can the Thunder get a second 15 point option. Westbrook is closest to that but is probably performing about as well as can be expected right now. To get more out of him, OKC would have to make him a starter, and they don't seem prepared to do that yet. He'll average over 15 per game in the future, but for now, we'll have to be satisfied with him being one of our double digit guys.

Frankly Nick Collision and Johan Petro are underperforming as starters. I think the Thunder should consider swapping them out with Desmond Mason and Robert Swift. Well, maybe not Swift yet, but when we're sure that he's healthy. Mason has shown he can score over 15 points and with more game time, should easily be able to be that threat. The biggest loss in switching Collision for Mason is the four inch height differential. Swift is the same height as Petro, and if we give him Petro's 20 minutes per game, we're bound to get better than the 4.9 points Johan is giving us.

As for tonight's game, expect a high scoring affair with the winner in the triple digits. If the Thunder are going to win this one, they'll have to finally break 100 while holding the Magic to the mid-90s. Orlando averages eight 3 pointers per game, so even if OKC gets an early lead they'll have to be on guard for the Magic to make a run at a comeback.

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