GAME PREVIEW

Nick Gallo

By Nick Gallo | Broadcast Reporter & Digital Editor | mailbag@okcthunder.com



LA Back-to-Back Starts with Clips

Date: Nov. 18, 2019
Tip-Off Time: 9:30 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network



Thunder Status

After starting Friday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers shooting just 1-of-7 from the field, the Thunder shot 40-of-69 (58.0%) the rest of the game. That included 56.5 percent in the fourth quarter and overtime, when defenses often tighten up and shooting becomes even more difficult to come by. In the final 17 minutes of play the Thunder knocked down 3-of-5 threes and also made 18-of-19 free throws, led by 16 of Chris Paul’s season-high 27 points, 12 of Danilo Gallinari’s season-high 28 points and also 18 combined points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Terrance Ferguson, the latter of whom registered a season-high with 19 points with 5 made three-pointers.

“(Terrance) is extremely reliable, he works incredibly hard, and he’s really disciplined in terms of the game plan and being disciplined to that,” said Head Coach Billy Donovan. “I was happy for him, that he was able to knock down some shots.”

For the game, the Thunder racked up 52 points in paint, its 2nd most this season, despite a significant size advantage for the Sixers.

“It’s going to be a process for us, we got to keep building and working,” said Donovan. “The biggest thing for us is just building stamina, building the habits and the fundamentals to our identity and trying to stay true to them.”


Opponent Breakdown

After just recently returning from injury rehab, Clippers forward and former Thunder MVP Award finalist Paul George will be suiting up for LA on Monday night. Alongside him will be a two-time NBA Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard. The small forward and reigning NBA Champion with the Toronto Raptors became the first player in NBA history to switch teams after winning Finals MVP, a sign of the times in the NBA with the massive amount of player movement between teams. Leonard is one of just four players in the NBA to rank in the top 30 in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

Off the bench for the Clippers is the ever-savvy Lou Williams, who is averaging 18.1 points per game, the second most for a reserve in the NBA this year. He’s won 6th Man of the Year in three of the last five seasons and has had 135 games with 20-or-more points off the bench, more than double of any other player in NBA history.


Stat to Watch

The free throw line will be a critical battleground in Monday night’s contest, as the Thunder is coming off an impressive performance from the stripe with a 35-of-41 showing against the Sixers on Friday. In fact, it was the first time in OKC history that two Thunder players were perfect from the line with at least 10 attempts, as Paul and Gallinari combined to go 23-of-23.

Where the Thunder will be tested, however, is on the defensive side of the ball. OKC comes in as one of the best in the league at not putting teams to the line at just 21.0 per game, fifth-fewest in the league. Meanwhile, the Clippers are attempting the second-most free throws per game at 27.9.

The Thunder will have to get into position early on defense to prevent bang-bang plays at the basket in transition. Once in the half court, communication and ability to play straight-up with verticality at the rim will be crucial to preventing a parade to the line.

“We’ll go in there, play thunder basketball, compete, focus on the defensive end, and try to get the win,” said Ferguson.

Thunder Trend

In the Clippers’ home win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, LA knocked down 17-of-33 three-point attempts (51.5 percent), with George making 6 and reserve guard Jerome Robinson hitting 5 on his own. The Thunder’s entire defensive scheme this season has revolved around being able to stay home on the perimeter to limit easy catch-and-shoot jumpers from behind the arc and so far it’s paid off.

Donovan’s club is holding opponents to just 31.2 percent shooting from behind the arc on the season, the fourth-best mark in the league. OKC is also shooting 36.8 percent from three, which is eighth-best in the NBA, making the Thunder one of six NBA teams who are in the top 10 in 3-point offensive and defensive efficiency.

“We are at a good point,” began Gallinari, “but we have a long season ahead of us and along the way, we have a lot of things that we need to work on and get better, so it’s just the beginning now.”

1-on-1: Terrance Ferguson



Paul Invites CEOs to Practice

At the end of practice on Sunday at UCLA, Thunder guard Chris Paul invited a pair of friends and business associates to come to watch the team get some shots up and also to expose his Thunder teammates to high-level members of the business community.

Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger was in attendance, just days after the release of the new platform Disney+. He chatted with Paul, Head Coach Billy Donovan and various players from veterans like Danilo Gallinari to rookie Darius Bazley.

Also on campus for Thunder practice was Beyond Meat President & CEO Ethan Brown. Notably, Paul has undertaken a plant-based diet recently and has noticed significant effects, like minimal inflammation after workouts and games along with a better overall feeling after eating.

On Sunday there was a food truck waiting for Thunder players outside of practice - a collaboration between Beyond Meat and Vurger Boys, a venture by former football players who adopted plant-based diets.



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