On the Road Again, Turning the Page – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC at DAL
- Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. CT
- Television:Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
DALLAS – As the games roll along and weeks bleed into months the games check off an NBA schedule with the rapidity of a car rambling past mile markers on I-35. Suddenly, the Thunder has less than a quarter of the season remaining.
In the 63rd game of the regular season or the 35-27 Thunder, it will square off against the regional rival Dallas Mavericks, a scrappy squad with a lot of pride regardless of the talent or experience level on the roster. This road tilt commences a stretch of three games in four nights on the road for the Thunder, part of a crucial juncture in the team’s playoff chase.
“It’s definitely a big stretch for us. We just got to keep playing every game like it’s our last,” forward Jerami Grant said.
Thunder Talk: Jerami Grant
In order to throw its weight around in the Western Conference playoff battle, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club is going to have to handle each competitive challenge as it comes. The first is with Rick Carlisle’s Mavericks, who always seem to give teams fits even if they don’t end up victorious. With a unique playing style, a heavy reliance on guard play and a drive-and-dish style, the Mavericks are difficult to corral. Behind the playmaking of Dennis Smith Jr., J.J. Barea and Yogi Ferrell, Dallas can get into the teeth of the defense for catch-and-shoot jumpers by Harrison Barnes, Dallas mainstay Dirk Nowitzki and recently acquired reserve forward Doug McDermott.
“We know they shoot a lot of threes. We just got to run them off the line,” Grant explained. “They like playing small so we’ll probably have to switch a lot and just get out in transition.”
“I’ve known Rick Carlisle for a long, long time,” Donovan noted. “His teams are gonna go out there and they’re gonna play hard. They’re gonna compete.”
Thunder Talk: Coach Donovan
One weapon at Donovan’s disposal in a matchup with a team like Dallas is Grant, the switchy, rangy, versatile forward that can one minute be playing the center for the Thunder and one minute later be stationed at the small forward spot.
Against a team like the Mavericks that puts pressure on your defense through attacking off the dribble, Grant’s quickness to stay in front of the ball and ability to come over to block shots from the weakside will be crucial. His understanding of the multiple positions he’s asked to fill is admirable alone, actually executing it in the moment while dealing with personnel assignments and the speed of the game is what has made Grant such an asset.
“His level of focus right now is really making a big difference in his game,” Anthony said. “When he’s playing like that, especially the way he played last night and as of late, it gives us another dimension for our team.”
“It’s definitely a little adjustment I guess, just figuring out where you need to be at on the court, but I’m definitely used to it,” Grant himself reported.
Thunder Talk: Paul George
- The Thunder is continuing to look for Anthony as a three-point shooter, particularly on catch-and-shoot looks. So far this season, 38.3 percent of Anthony’s attempts have come from behind the arc. Although it’s taken a great deal of sacrifice on the 25,000-point scorer, and there’s been an adjustment to not having the ball in his hands for a large percentage of the game, the Thunder has gotten nothing but the consummate teammate and professional out of Anthony. Rather than being the initiator and creator of offense, Anthony is in a reactive role this season, which is quite a change after 14 years in the NBA. As a result, his shooting numbers are 41 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from three-point range, but Anthony didn’t come to Oklahoma City for the numbers. He came to win.
- “That’s not something that I’m concerned about. I didn’t come here because I was thinking about having a higher shooting percentage,” Anthony explained. “When it’s time to win, it’s time to win. When it’s time for me to make shots, it’s time for me to make shots.”
Thunder Talk: Carmelo Anthony
- It was a great sign for the Thunder on Monday when it got 48 points from the bench against the Orlando Magic, even if that type of production isn’t a nightly occurrence. Now on the road for three straight, the Thunder’s role players off the bench, led by Raymond Felton, all need to find ways to contribute throughout the game. On Monday, four players reached double figures, but it wasn’t because of individual shot creation. It was due to a concerted effort to move the ball and keep all five members of that second group in motion throughout offensive possessions.
- “When you have guys that are not generators of offense by themselves – Patrick (Patterson), Alex (Abrines), Terrance (Ferguson), Jerami (Grant) to a certain extent on the perimeter – a lot of times they’re relying on the ball finding them in transition, when they’re open, when you make the extra pass,” Donovan noted.
Thunder Minute: Feb. 27