Wizards-Thunder Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 26, 2013
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder were stunned by a Washington Wizards team without John Wall earlier this season. They'll certainly be paying close attention to Wall on Wednesday night. Coming off one of the best individual performances of the NBA season, Wall may need a similar offensive effort in Oklahoma City if the Wizards plan to pull off a surprising sweep of the Thunder. Wall missed 33 games at the beginning of the season while recovering from a knee injury, the last of which was Washington's 101-99 win over Oklahoma City on Jan. 7. Bradley Beal and Martell Webster helped spur that upset, finishing with 22 points apiece as the Wizards (26-44) won for only the fifth time in their first 33 games. Beal likely won't be available Wednesday due to a nagging sprained ankle that's kept him out of nine of the last 12 games, but Wall has certainly looked healthy of late. He had the best game of his three-year career Monday against Memphis, finishing with 47 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in a 107-94 win. "I was just in a zone. I made my first couple of shots and I knew I was in a great rhythm. Ten points in the first quarter, I knew I had it going," said Wall, who's averaged 21.8 points on 52.3 percent shooting in March. Wall's performance was the Wizards' highest-scoring game since Antawn Jamison had 48 on April 17, 2007, and the NBA's third-most-productive individual scoring performance of the season. Durant, who leads the NBA at 28.3 points per game, is No. 2 on that list thanks to a 52-point effort in Dallas on Jan. 18. The Thunder (52-19) average 106.2 points to rank second in the league, but lately it's been their defense that's impressing coach Scott Brooks. Oklahoma City has held its last three opponents to 39.2 percent shooting, winning the past two while allowing an average of 86.0 points. The Thunder trailed by two at halftime Sunday against Portland, but held the Trail Blazers to 31.0 percent shooting and 36 points in the final 24 minutes en route to a 103-83 win. "You get extra opportunities because you're defending and you're rebounding and you're not giving them offensive rebounds," Brooks told the team's official website. "Not many teams want to run with us and we know we can play multiple styles, but we like to get out and run off of our defense. "Our first three steps are pretty good and we want to continue to build on those habits. Offensively, we want to get out and run in transition." These teams haven't faced each other in Oklahoma City in more than two years, with the last meeting a wild 124-117 Thunder win in two overtimes on Jan. 28, 2011. Durant led the way with 40 while Russell Westbrook had 35 points, 13 assists and 13 rebounds. Wall shot 5 of 19 in that loss, but fared better the last time he saw the Thunder, scoring 25 points, dishing out eight assists and pulled down seven boards in a 105-102 win Jan. 18, 2012. Durant and Westbrook combined for 69 points. The Thunder have averaged 113.0 points while winning the last three meetings in Oklahoma City. Durant had scored at least 32 in his previous five games against Washington before being held to 29 in January.
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