Back in Action with a Battle Against Boston
Date: Saturday, March 27, 2021
Tip-Off Time: 8 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
After a rare two-day break between games, the Thunder returns to the hardwood to take on the Celtics for the first time this season. The brief respite from game action allowed the Thunder to put in valuable time on the practice floor and in the film room during the condensed 72-game schedule.
“It's always good when you get the practice time. I think it's good for chemistry to get the guys back together in the gym in a non-game setting,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “These were two healthy days, and we feel pretty good about how we're going to come out of them.”
The Thunder opened up its four-game homestand on Wednesday with a tilt against the Memphis Grizzlies. While the Thunder fell 116-107, it received solid production from its 7-foot-1 center Moses Brown. Brown recorded his third career double-double with a team-high 19 points and 12 rebounds, but he reached 10 and 10 with 4:52 left in the second quarter which marked the third fastest double-double reached in OKC history.
“The thing that is really encouraging is he's 21 years old and he's extremely hard worker,” said Daigneault. “He's all eyes and ears, he competes every night he plays really, really hard and he's shown the ability to improve in a short period of time.”
Brown was not alone in his offensive contributions on Wednesday as he was one of three players off of the Thunder bench to score in double figures. Ty Jerome and Kenrich Williams both chipped in 11 points from the second unit and each have also scored in double figures in six of the Thunder’s last seven contests.
Boston will enter into Chesapeake Energy Arena on the second night of a back-to-back after facing Milwaukee on Friday. In the last six back to backs that the Celtics have played this season, they have gone 0-6 after starting the season 3-0 on such occasions.
Friday’s matchup with Milwaukee will be a rematch between the Bucks and the Celtics from just 48 hours prior. In that game, the Celtics fell 121-119 but fought back from trailing by as many as 25 points in the game. It was Kemba Walker who led the comeback effort for the Celtics as he logged 23 points overall, 14 of which came in the third quarter.
Walker, alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, make up the high-powered perimeter attack of Boston. The trio averages a combined 67.4 points per game, which makes up just over 60 percent of the Celtics offense. In the litany of different challenges that the Thunder has faced this season, a disciplined Boston team that features a trio of high-volume perimeter scorers will be another experience Coach Daigneault looks forward to adding to his players’ catalogues this season.
“The great thing about the NBA schedule is that every night presents a new challenge and also a formidable challenge and Boston's no exception,” said Daigneault. “They've got really, really talented perimeter players. They execute the heck out of their stuff. They're always prepared.”
Both of Boston’s backcourt All Stars in Brown and Tatum lead the Celtics in scoring as they average 24.7 and 24.8 points per night, respectively. Their combined 49.5 points per game make them the fourth highest scoring duo in the league. Brown has scored in double figures in all 41 of the Celtics games this season while Tatum ranks 11th in 30-point games this season with 10.
“The main thing that stands out is the perimeter defense that we're going to have to play on their guys,” said Daigneault. “They have a number of high-level perimeter players that can score, pass, handle and it's going to require us to be really good on the ball, really good in our coverages and really good in our help, which is good opportunity for us to continue to try to get better.”
Friday grind. pic.twitter.com/4XvinTMsBr— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 26, 2021
Stat to Watch
Second-Chance Points — Over the last five games, the Thunder is tied for first in offensive rebounds per game with 12.2 per night, which the team has been able to convert to 13.0 second-chance points each game. The Celtics, while they have averaged 10.7 offensive rebounds over the same time period, have also translated those boards into 13.0 points on average. In addition to a strong effort to contain Boston’s strong perimeter players, expect the Thunder to work in the paint to finish each defensive possession with a secured rebound.
In the Thunder’s game on Wednesday, seven players scored seven or more points, which marked only the third time in OKC history such a feat has been accomplished. The game also marked the second straight game where every single player who stepped on the floor for the Thunder scored before halftime. The teams’ balanced scoring trend didn’t stop there.
The Thunder has now recorded three consecutive contests where all nine players have scored and the fourth game this season with seven players in double figures.
“That’s what it means to play like a team,” said Thunder rookie Aleksej Pokuševski following Wednesday’s game. “Everybody scores, everybody runs, everybody plays the same way.”