Thunder-76ers Preview

The Philadelphia 76ers continue to struggle early in games, and
now they have to try and get a jump on the motivated Oklahoma City
Thunder.

The Thunder look to bounce back from their second loss in 10
games Saturday night when they visit the 76ers.

A showdown with the fast-starting defending Western Conference
champs doesn’t appear to be coming at a good time for
Philadelphia.

While the 76ers (7-5) have trailed after one quarter in nine of
their 12 games, Oklahoma City (9-4) has raced out to first-quarter
leads in each of its last seven contests.

“It could get pretty ugly pretty fast (against the Thunder),”
Philadelphia guard Jrue Holiday said. “We can’t look at it like, if
it’s not one of the best teams, we know we can come back on them.
We have to start out games like we’re playing the best team.”

Oklahoma City jumped out to a 28-21 first-quarter lead on Friday
night, but couldn’t sustain it in a 108-100 loss at Boston that
snapped the team’s three-game winning streak.

Kevin Durant, second in the NBA in scoring (25.4), stayed hot
with a game-high 29 points. The league’s reigning scoring champ is
averaging 30.0 points over his last five games.

Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 13 rebounds for his second
straight double-double. He’s had at least two blocks in every game,
averaging a league-best 3.4.

Russell Westbrook, who had 26 points, eight assists and seven
rebounds on Friday, will look to continue his success against the
76ers. The All-Star has averaged 26.7 points and 9.3 assists in the
last three meetings, though he’s had exactly seven turnovers each
time.

Still, Oklahoma City has won six straight against Philadelphia.
Durant has certainly done his part, averaging 29.4 points in the
five during that stretch he’s played in.

“We’ve always been a good bounce-back team,” coach Scott Brooks
told the team’s official website. “There’s no reason for us to stop
doing that.”

The 76ers are focused on getting things going earlier after
another slow start Wednesday night. They fell behind 28-15 after 12
minutes in a 92-83 loss at Cleveland that halted their three-game
winning streak.

Coach Doug Collins has hinted at possible changes to the lineup
recently, and he didn’t back off after his team’s poor first half
against the Cavaliers.

“If we dig ourselves a hole, our rotations change, you start
going to the bench sooner and then you end up chasing the game,”
Collins said. “It’s like oversleeping by 30 minutes.”

The 76ers couldn’t dig out of their hole against Cleveland
despite 16 points each from Holiday and Jason Richardson. They had
five players in double figures, but shot just 36.0 percent from the
field and 4 of 17 from beyond the arc.

Philadelphia ranks near the bottom of the league in scoring
(89.8) and field-goal percentage (41.1).

Holiday, though, is having a breakout season with a team-best
18.4 points per game while ranking among the NBA leaders with 8.6
assists.

He’s averaged 19.0 points and 7.0 assists in his last three
games against the Thunder while shooting 53.8 percent.

The 76ers will try to bounce back with three consecutive games
at the Wells Fargo Center, where they’ve won three in a row.