The Philadelphia 76ers rank 11th in the NBA in defensive efficiency. But the 76ers (26-44) rank a lowly 23rd in giving up points — teams average 107.6 ppg against the Sixers. The OKC Thunder, 18th in ppg allowed, aren’t exactly head-and-shoulders above Philadelphia either. All of which sets up a run-and-gun guarantee of big-time scoring for Wednesday night’s Thunder-Sixers matchup.
Russell Westbrook will no doubt imprint himself on this game — and his team will encourage it. Westbrook joins fellow MVP candidate James Harden as the only two MVP candidates who haven’t missed a game for their teams — and Westbrook’s amazing season triple-double average should get a cushion against this 76ers team, which has already packed away rookie star Joel Embiid for the season. Westbrook isn’t about individual honors, but he’s highly conscious of what’s at stake in this MVP campaign and the history he could make statistically. So are his teammates and Thunder coach Billy Donovan. The Thunder, still smarting from Kevin Durant’s departure, would love to see Westbrook get the MVP — and going for 60 — or 61 — might help seal it. He’s already had a career high 58 this year. Indeed, 61 points would mark an NBA season high, outdoing Klay Thompson’s 60 points on December 5.