NBA Basketball

Wizards-Thunder Preview

Paul George has fueled the Oklahoma City Thunder's offense for most of the season.

But the Thunder are hoping Russell Westbrook's 31-point performance in Friday's win in Portland might finally kickstart his offensive game.

Or might it just be another step in what's been a roller-coaster offensive season for Westbrook, especially over the last nine games.

He was 13 of 28 against Portland, but 3 of 20 against the Lakers before that. Before that, he was 13 of 24 against Dallas a night after going just 4 of 22 against the Mavericks.

Westbrook hopes to break through with a second consecutive strong offensive game Sunday when Oklahoma hosts the Washington Wizards.

It will be the second and final meeting of the season between the teams.

On Nov. 2 in Washington, the Thunder scored 79 first-half points en route to a 134-111 blowout win in Washington.

Oklahoma City is 3-2 against the Wizards since former Thunder coach Scott Brooks took over the Wizards in 2016-17.

Oklahoma City comes into the game having won three in a row and eight of 11.

Washington has lost 10 of its last 14 games.

The Wizards have leaned hard on shooting guard Bradley Beal, who had his eighth game this season with 30-plus points in Friday's loss to Miami.

Only Kevin Durant (36) and James Harden (31) have more games of 30 or more points than Beal this year.

Beal's importance has been magnified by the season-ending heel injury to John Wall.

The Wizards will also be without power forward Markieff Morris for the fifth consecutive game. Morris is expected to miss at least six weeks after experiencing neck and upper-back stiffness.

Washington is just 4-17 on the road this season, dropping eight consecutive games away from Capital One Arena.

Part of Oklahoma City's success lately has been the play of its bench, especially the versatile defense of backup big man Nerlens Noel.

In Friday night's win, Noel had back-to-back steals against Damian Lillard that helped the Thunder get back into the game and eventually win.

"As a big, really that's a unique skillset that he has," George said of Noel. "And that's what makes us really good defensively is when we have him in there and we can switch one through five, and he's going to get the job done guarding the little guys."

Both of Noel's thefts led to points on the other end.

"I learned a lot though my early career of staying disciplined with that reach and not having my strengths be my weaknesses and put me in tough positions," Noel told The Oklahoman. "So I just do disciplined reaches that don't put me out of position if they do take that first step. You've just got to bother them and make sure you're staying in front."

Thunder shooting guard Alex Abrines is expected to miss his seventh consecutive game. Abrines first missed four games due to illness and has missed the last two due to personal reasons.

Updated January 5, 2019

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