No Satisfaction, Still Striving Forward – OU Medicine Game Day Report: OKC vs. DET
- Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT
- Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
One emotional home victory does not constitute a turnaround. That’s the statement coming out of the Thunder’s camp heading into Friday’s home-stand finale against the Detroit Pistons.
After taking care of business on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Thunder knows that in the final four games of the regular season, including against Detroit, it must do a good job of backing up the effort it gave the last time out at Chesapeake Energy Arena. With the start of postseason basketball only a week away, the Thunder must continue sharpening its tools and be vigilant against any relaxing of standards.
“We just gotta stay with it, stay consistent, keep putting the work in,” said forward Paul George. “We got one win. We gotta continue to keep these wins going down the stretch.”
“The game is not complicated, if we do what’s been working for us. We just gotta do it at a high level and continue on with it,” the All-Star forward continued. “When we slip, when we have slippage and we’re not ourselves, we know. We notice it.”
Watch: Thunder vs. Pistons Preview
One area the Thunder certainly needs to maintain focus is simply finishing better on what should be high-percentage shot attempts. For the season, the Thunder has attempted the third-most field goal attempts inside the restricted area, yet is shooting just 62.0 percent on those shots, 20th in the NBA.
At the free throw line, the Thunder is shooting just 71.1 percent, 28th in the league, despite taking the 6th most free throws in the league. Those are two high-volume areas of shot attempts for the Thunder that have been efficient. As a result, the Thunder is having to make up for those opportunity costs elsewhere, and must do a great job of playing with pace to get easier finishes out in transition.
“Missing the layups, missing the free throws, that stuff adds up after a while. That definitely impacts you offensively,” said Head Coach Billy Donovan.
“We can do a little bit better job of kind of getting it out and getting it up the floor better,” added Donovan. “Your pace is always going to be better when you defend better.”
1-on-1: Terrance Ferguson on Tonight's Matchup
The last time the Thunder saw the Pistons was all the way back in December, in the midst of a stretch where it won 16 of 19 games early in the year. Just like the Thunder, the Pistons are a different team now than it was four months ago, including the additions of sharpshooter Wayne Ellington along with big man Thon Maker. While Blake Griffin’s status is undetermined for now, the Pistons frontcourt already has plenty of beef with Andre Drummond and Zaza Pachulia down low.
“Everybody is going to tweak and change as the year goes on to try to make adjustments for what’s best for their team. The personnel and certainly philosophically how they’re trying to play on defense and offense is probably the same with additions and adjustments,” said Donovan.
“Drummond on the backboard, his ability to rebound and their shooting around them is really, really good. They present a lot of challenges in terms of defending them with Griffin and Drummond up front,” Donovan continued.
While the Thunder must score the ball more efficiently to stay in the game, a surefire way to give itself a chance to win is by putting together a strong defensive showing. Battling down low to limit open layups, getting out to contest jump shots, not fouling and snagging defensive rebounds are the core areas the Thunder must commit to each night, and will be vital against a Pistons team that does a good job of limiting team’s ability to make comebacks at the three-point line, where it holds opponents to the fewest makes and attempts in the league.
“We’ve gotta hang our hat on defense every single game. If we don’t shoot it particularly well from the three-point line, we don’t shoot it well from the field, we don’t shoot it well from the free throw line, we have to have other ways to win,” Donovan noted.
Watch: Practice Report - April 4
- The Pistons come into the game ranked sixth in the NBA in offensive rebounds and also sixth in three-point attempts. Whether it’s shots on the perimeter being generated from inside position or second chances coming off of three-point misses, Detroit plays a specific brand of inside-outside basketball that the Thunder will have to deal with at a high level tonight.
- “Keep them off the boards,” said forward Markieff Morris. “That’s the key to their team. Do a great job on the post and play our basketball.”
- “Just stay engaged, knowing that the NBA is a three-point league now,” added Morris. “You gotta guard the three to win. That’s the main thing, staying engaged and knowing what’s at stake.”
- As of Friday afternoon, the Thunder sits in the 7th spot in the Western Conference playoff race, and would play against the Denver Nuggets in the first round. While the Thunder plays Detroit in Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight, the San Antonio Spurs (currently 8th in the West) play at the Washington Wizards, the Utah Jazz (currently 5th in the West) play at home against the Sacramento Kings and the LA Clippers (currently 6th in the West) plays at home against the Los Angeles Lakers. All four of those teams are separated by just 3.5 games in the standings. Still, the Thunder must focus on each game as it comes in order to improve its playoff positioning.
- “We’re in a tight race for position, so it’s still one game at a time, with the mindset of preparing for the playoffs,” Morris said. “We want to make sure everybody is clicking and we have our rotations right.”
- “Everything when it comes to the game takes a level of focus and concentration,” Morris noted. “It’s as easy as making the right pass when the right pass is open. If we continue to do that and continue to play the way that we play, we’ll be fine.”
NEWS & NOTES
- Many Thunder fans have wondered and asked about Andre Roberson and his status for the final few games and the postseason. While the team isn’t ruling out a return and remains optimistic, he’s not participating in team practices.
- “(Roberson) is not near being able to do anything right now,” said Donovan. “The guy has just had, and to nobody’s fault, setbacks… I give him a lot of credit for his attitude and his disposition about how he’s tried to stay upbeat, how he’s tried to stay positive and how he’s tried to look at these setbacks as opportunities for him to keep pushing forward.”
- A storyline throughout the season has been George’s commitment to getting leaner physically to be ready for the running style of Western Conference basketball, particularly playing alongside Westbrook and a top-5 team in terms of pace in the NBA all season. One of the ways George has done that is through diet. He’s had a personal chef for five years, but this season he can be seen carrying in Tupperware full of freshly prepared vegetables, fish and other nutrient-rich foods that have helped him with recovery and feeling lighter.
- “My plate has a lot more color now,” quipped George.
- “This year, including the summer, has been the biggest difference in what I’m eating. It’s completely changing out what I’ve been used to and transitioning to a cleaner, healthier eating style,” said George.