GAME PREVIEW


Paris Lawson

By Paris Lawson | Digital Content Reporter | mailbag@okcthunder.com



High-Powered Offense Takes to the Windy City

Date: February 25, 2020
Tip-Off Time: 7 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network



Thunder Status

After two decisive victories out of the All-Star break, the Thunder now search for its ninth straight road win on Wednesday against the Bulls. Seven players scored in double figures on Friday as the Thunder handed Denver its first division loss of the season. Following that performance, a Thunder record eight players in double figures on Sunday in a 28-point rout over San Antonio on Sunday. In one of the best and historic offensive performances of the season, Sunday’s stat sheet warranted its own story.

The depth in scoring was a result of offensive contributions from several of the Thunder’s young members with two-way guard, Luguentz Dort leading the charge. Dort’s stat line consisted of 15 points, three steals and a game-high +36 in 24 minutes of playing time.

“It’s really fun and it’s harder to guard that way when you get five positions that can make plays and score and have to be guarded,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who notched a team-high 22 points. “A lot of times, you see teams with two or three really good talents and then you can load off and help on other guys on the floor, but that’s not the case with us.”

Opponent Breakdown

Wednesday’s tilt marks the second matchup this season between the Bulls and the Thunder with the Thunder edging out a historic comeback victory in December to the tune of a 109-106 win. After digging a 26-point hole in the first half, it took a 19-point performance from Chris Paul in the fourth quarter to rally the troops for a historic win.

The Bulls, known for their aggressive defensive tactics, racked up 16 points off turnovers in the first quarter. Rather than playing back in drop coverage on pick and rolls, the Bulls send their bigs up to pressure the ball handler. As a result, Chicago forces a league best 18.2 turnovers per contest while converting them into 21.1 points per game – another league-leading mark.

Offensively, the Bulls are led by Zach LaVine who averages 25.2 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field and a 38 percent clip from 3-point land. However, it was the Bulls’ point guard, Coby White who stole the show on Sunday against the Wizards. The Chicago rookie tallied 33 points for the second-consecutive game knocking down 61 percent from the field while sinking five 3-pointers.

Injuries have taken their toll on the Bull’s front court. In their game against Washington on Sunday, the Bulls were without Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. who were both out with injury. Expect the Thunder to take advantage in the lane with multiple paint touches early to not only Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel but also perimeter players getting downhill into the lane. Over the Thunders three-game winning streak, it has notched 18.7 points in the paint in the first quarter establishing a paint presence in the early going.

“Our ability to get into the paint and force help, get to the free throw line or kick out threes is really important for us,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “We’ve got to be a team that plays downhill and plays toward the basket.”

Matchup Focus

After getting hit with the injury bug, the Chicago offense has relied heavily on its perimeter players in White and LaVine. In its last game against Washington, the duo combined for 55 points with White notching his second straight game with 30 or more points. That feat put him in the same sentence as Michael Jordan as the only two Chicago rookies to have consecutive 30-point performances. For the Thunder perimeter defenders, it will be critical to make each shot as difficult as possible while communicating in transition to limit their looks.

Stat to Watch

Turnovers. Chicago has reached a league-best 1,000 deflections this season. Its activity on the defensive end causes disruption for opponents’ offensive rhythm. Taking care of the ball is always paramount for the Thunder, but against one of the better defensive teams in the league, look for the Thunder to push the tempo offensively and be efficient with its decision making.

“Just be aggressive back, put them on their heels and use their aggression against them,” said Gilgeous-Alexander.

Thunder Trend

In addition to the two consecutive games in which the Thunder has finished with seven or more players in double figures, Thunder center Steven Adams has quietly reached his fourth straight double double. This marks the fourth time that Adams has reached this mark which also ties his career-high streak.

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