Bounce Back Chance on Back to Back – OU Medicine Game Day Report: OKC vs. LAC
- Tip-off: 8:00 p.m. CT
- Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
Even when an NBA team might need it most, there’s no sympathy that comes from the NBA schedule. It marches on, just as the Thunder will as it comes back from Denver to Oklahoma City to host the LA Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back.
So far this season the Thunder has performed pretty well on the second night of these two-game pairings, winning big in Washington on the road, taking care of business similarly at home against Houston and then playing Denver close on the back end of a home-and-home set. Saturday night will be the fourth-such quick turnaround matchup for the Thunder this season, but fortunately it comes against a team with whom Head Coach Billy Donovan and his staff are quite familiar. Through just 27 games this will already be the third matchup between the Thunder and the Clippers, whose roster presents challenges across the board.
“Being able to come back and play with energy, that’s going to be important,” said Donovan. “It’s going to be a quick turnaround. That’s a team that is really good and explosive offensively. They’ve rebounded the ball well. When they use Boban (Marjanovic) the way they do and Montrezl Harrell and (Marcin) Gortat. Then obviously (Danilo) Gallinari and Tobias Harris are a challenge on the wing. They’ve been a very, very good team all year, so another great challenge for us tomorrow night.”
As Donovan mentioned, the Clippers have players who can fill up the box score, particularly long, rangy wing scorers in Gallinari and Harris. With LA’s size in the front court and the new era of high volume three-point shooting leading to long rebounds, the Thunder is going to have to be extra vigilant on the defensive glass in this matchup. All season long, defense has been the Thunder’s calling card, and it will have to get to that level again for four quarters on Saturday.
“We’ve gotta be a team defensively that rebounding percentage, we have to be up around 80 percent. That’s where we have to be,” said Donovan. “Some of these games here now we’ve been in the 60’s. that’s just not good enough. That gives teams too many second chance opportunities.”
“We’ve gotta be elite defensively. We just have to,” added Donovan. “When we don’t have a stellar defensive night and we’re kind of not great at the free throw line, not great rebounding, maybe fouling too much, sometimes it can be a challenge to overcome that.”
On offense the Thunder is struggling to make shots, hitting just 41.1 percent against Denver including below 50 percent from the paint and below 60 percent from the free throw line. Players are working on their craft every day to try to remedy those shooting woes, but it won’t happen overnight. Realistically, to come away with victories, more of these prime shot attempts need to start going down.
“You want to get to the free throw line, you want to get to stuff at the rim and you want to obviously get good quality three-point shots. For the most part, we’ve done that,” said Donovan. “We’re going to have to shoot the ball better from the free throw line and shoot the ball better from the field.”
Once the ball is tipped up, the Thunder really has no control over whether those wide-open shots, bunnies around the rim or chances at the charity stripe will go down. The only thing the team can control is its heart, energy and concentration. The team and its players believe in itself to bounce back from a mini skid of losses in three of four games and that when the pressure is on the Thunder can rise to the occasion.
“I think this team responds best on back to back nights. And we’re back home,” said Paul George.
“Just go out and win. That’s it,” Russell Westbrook stated.