A Backcourt Battle Against the Bulls
Date: Friday, Jan. 15, 2021
Tip-Off Time: 7 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
Following a 4-1 performance on the road, the Thunder dropped both games of its back-to-back at home. Most recently, OKC fell in a tilt against the reigning NBA Champion Lakers 128-99. In the game, the entire Thunder roster took advantage of the valuable minutes and touchpoints on the floor, adding to its catalogue of experiences as the player development path continues through each game.
As an example of that, 12 Thunder players scored in the matchup which marks the second-most this season. Additionally, Isaiah Roby who started in place of Al Horford (rest), made the most of his second regular season start and recorded a solid stat line of 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists on the evening.
Similarly, the Thunder’s 19-year-old rookies in Théo Maledon and Aleksej Pokuševski combined for 17 points on the night. Pokuševski demonstrated flashes of his development as he recorded his first double-digit scoring night of the season and his career with 10 points while also swatting away three blocks.
“It's one of 72 games, and they're all opportunities to compete and they are opportunities to learn,” said Daigneault postgame. “We’ve just got to continue to use every experience to continue to grow and move forward.”
After their last meeting against Boston was postponed on Tuesday, the well-rested Chicago Bulls enter into Chesapeake Energy Arena having not played since Sunday.
Despite the fact that the Bulls have dropped their past three contests, each one was decided by four points or less while the group averaged 122.0 points on a 54.4-percent clip from the field and 42.4 percent from behind the arc.
A major contributor to the Bulls’ offensive production over those three matchups was Zach LaVine who averaged 38.3 points on 58.3-percent shooting from the field and 50.0 percent from behind the arc. In Chicago’s most recent game against the Clippers, LaVine dropped 45 points in the loss after draining 10 out if his 16 3-point attempts.
Adding to the backcourt firepower of the Bulls is third-year standout Coby White who contributed 19.7 points over the same three contests while shooting 52.1 percent from the field.
Though Friday’s game marks the first meeting between the Bulls and the Thunder of the regular season, OKC is plenty familiar with the group walking through its doors. Chicago took on the Thunder twice during the regular season and Bulls head coach Billy Donovan coached in Oklahoma City for five seasons prior to his transition to Chicago.
The Bulls backcourt duo of LaVine and White will be a key matchup against the Thunder’s perimeter defenders. LaVine is fifth in the league in points per game averaging 27.7 each night. Meanwhile, White’s 17.8 points per game ranks third among all second-year players.
As a team, the Thunder leads the league in contested field goal attempts per game. This is a trend the squad will look to replicate against the high-powered backcourt of LaVine and White who average a combined 34.7 field goal attempts per game.
Stat to Watch
Turnovers – The Bulls turn the ball over at the highest rate in the league with nearly 18 turnovers per contest. Look for the Thunder to defend with a balance of discipline and aggression in order to take advantage of Chicago’s miscues and translate them into a fast-paced, high-energy offense on the other end of the floor.
The Thunder's defensive philosophy is founded on two principles - effort and execution. Effort is what drives this team as it develops those crucial habits to help its five-man unit stay connected and get stops.@nickgallo22 reports— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 15, 2021
Coach Daigneault’s squad will look to demonstrate its resilient zero-zero mentality on Friday after its loss to the Lakers. Luckily, these are waters the Thunder has treaded on two occasions this season. In the two games where the Thunder has lost by more than 20 points, the team is 2-0 in the following game.
First, after dropping its matchup to the Pelicans 113-80 the squad rallied to defeat the Magic on the road 108-99. Then after dropping its game against the Heat on Jan. 4, the Thunder turned the page to defeat the Pelicans by one point on Jan. 6.