Darius Bazley
(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

Preview: Thunder vs. Warriors

TV: Bally Sports OK | Radio: WWLS/WKY

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com

The Thunder returns to action inside of Paycom Center following a demanding stretch of four games in six nights – three of which were on the road. OKC now faces the surging Golden State Warriors for the third and final time this season.

WHAT TO WATCH

  • 3-Point Defense – After holding the Kings to 37.5 percent shooting from behind the arc on Saturday, the Thunder has now logged 14 consecutive games holding its opponent to under 40 percent shooting from the 3-point line. There will be no better test of OKC’s sharp 3-point defensive execution this season than the Golden State Warriors who average the most 3-point makes of any team this season and who has shot 40.7 percent over the last eight contests. 

Additionally, the Warriors tout five players in the rotation averaging over two made 3-pointers per game including the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, Stephen Curry who averages 4.9 made 3-pointers per night. 

  • Move it, Protect it – OKC has demonstrated superb ball movement logging 22 or more assists in each of its last six contests and averaging 23.7 dimes during that span. While OKC will look to move the ball and get everyone involved, it will be critical to do so while also limiting turnovers. The Warriors hold the number one defense in the league as they average the fifth most turnovers, points off turnovers and fast break points per night. Keeping Golden State’s scoring at bay will start with taking care of the ball offensively and limiting runouts. 

On the opposite end, while Golden State averages the second most assists of any team in the league, the team also commits the second most turnovers per night. As the Thunder works to play with pace and tempo offensively, keep an eye on how the group capitalizes on miscues. 

  • Second Unit Stepping Up – Playing undermanned without three of its rotation players, the Thunder has showcased its collective mentality of solving problems with all five guys on the floor – even if those guys came off the bench. 

Over the last two games, OKC’s second unit has come up big in the team’s performance. Against the Trail Blazers, Ty Jerome, Mike Muscala and Kenrich Williams all chipped in double figures to help provide a lift. Against the Kings, it was Aleksej Pokuševski who stepped in with 12 points and nine rebounds after not being in the Thunder rotation for 11 games. 

NOTABLE

Thunder guard Ty Jerome has played a key role in the Thunder’s offense over the last two games. During that span, Jerome has dished out 14 assists that have generated a total of 38 points for the Thunder’s offense. In addition to his own scoring, Jerome has been responsible for 45 collective points. 

QUOTABLE

“We definitely gave ourselves a chance, but it just wasn't enough. It's a challenge but there’s also a beauty in it. For us to win games, we have to put together so many things. We have to do it at such a high level and consistently and we didn't do that [in Sacramento.]”

Darius Bazley on the effort and lessons against Sacramento
(Coby Van Loan | OKC Thunder )

SCOUTING REPORT

Golden State (40-13) enters Oklahoma City on a season-best, eight-game winning streak. The team holds the number one net rating in the league (+8.2) and the second-best record overall. 

Since the Thunder last faced the Warriors back in October, the team has welcomed sharp-shooter Klay Thompson back into the lineup after missing over two years of action due to injuries. In the 11 games Thompson has returned to the lineup, he has averaged 16.3 points and nearly three made 3-pointers while shooting 43 percent from the field. 

Thompson rounds out a lineup headlined by fellow sharp-shooter Steph Curry (25.9 ppg) and Andrew Wiggins (18.2 ppg).