Each day Contest General offers you the opportunity to pick head-to-head NBA matchups from some of the league’s top games.
Thursday offers a four-game slate, but a doubleheader features some of the league’s brightest stars with Washington hosting Oklahoma City and Minnesota entertaining Golden State.
Below is a guide on which teams to pick.
Washington Wizards at Oklahoma City Thunder
This is the ultimate snub game from an All-Star starters standpoint.
On one hand you have Russell Westbrook, and on the other you have one of the NBA’s top backcourts in John Wall and Brad Beal.
Westbrook is quietly flirting with a triple-double again, Wall is averaging 19.3 points and ranks second in the league in assists (trailing just Westbrook) and Beal is averaging career highs across the board including 23.6 points.
These two will be getting chummy, playing twice in the next five days.
The Thunder have won 12 of their last 17 games entering this week, which includes victories over the Cavaliers, Raptors and Rockets. In 11 of those contests their opponent has failed to reach 100 points. Often the attention around Oklahoma City goes toward the Big 3 and Westbrook’s greatness, but lost is the fact that OKC allows the third-fewest points in the NBA.
Meanwhile, Washington – behind Wall and Beal – has one of the league’s top offenses, ranking ninth in scoring average and sixth in three-point field goal percentage. The Wizards have scored at least 110 points on 21 different occasions this season (7th-most in NBA).
From a matchup standpoint, you have to love this for the Thunder.
Paul George is an elite perimeter defender and matching up with Beal is right inside his wheelhouse. Westbrook and Wall should negate each other as well. Steven Adams is just better than any post presence Washington has, but Carmelo Anthony will have his hands full at both ends with Otto Porter Jr. and/or Markieff Morris.
Expect this game to have a playoff feel. It’ll come down to George’s ability to stop Beal and the Wizards ability – or lack thereof – to contain dribble penetration. If they cannot defend without fouling (they allow the seventh-most free throw attempts per game), they’ll struggle to win.
I like Oklahoma City at home.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors
This game is quietly turning into one that may ultimately help decide the Western Conference.
It will feature six All-Stars as Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns join Golden State’s Big Four, so there will be no shortage of star power.
The question now, as it has been all season, will be the legitimacy of Minnesota’s defense.
The Timberwolves can score with the best of them, but part of the reason Tom Thibodeau was brought in to Minneapolis was because of his defensive prowess. However, the Wolves rank 23rd in defensive rating (points per 100 possessions).
Minnesota as a team posts nearly a 110 defensive rating and veteran guard Jeff Teague is at 111 individually. As long as he struggles to defend elite guards, Minnesota will struggle to beat quality teams.
Oh, there’s also the fact that Golden State is 91-16 at home since the start of the 2015-16 season.
Minnesota will hang, but the Warriors have a way of making good teams look really bad in Oakland.