Back-to-Back Begins in Salt Lake City
Date: Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Tip-Off Time: 8 p.m. CT
Television: Bally Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
As the Thunder heads out to Salt Lake City for the first game of its road-home back-to-back, it will have the services of both Lu Dort and Darius Bazley who returned to the Thunder lineup on Saturday after missing a combined 22 games due to injury.
Bazley registered 36 minutes against Philadelphia and was responsible for 10 of the Thunder’s first 12 points via score or assist. By the end of the night, Bazley would finish with a team-high 17 points while grabbing nine rebounds.
Dort, who entered into the NBA’s concussion protocols on March 29, returned to the starting lineup on Saturday and registered 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field which included a 2-for-4 performance from deep.
“First of all, it's great having those guys back on the court,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “They just injected energy into the game, both of them from a physical standpoint and athleticism standpoint and then the motor that they play with, you know, you definitely feel Lu from the jump defensively for sure and offensively lately and [Bazley] just his energy on the glass is running those things are really potent when those guys stepped back on the floor and so it's great to have them back out there.”
“It was great having the guys back. Happy they’re back and healthy that’s the main thing. Just getting to know them in the game,” said Thunder wing Svi Mykhailiuk. “Both are great players and really good competitors.
shots up before headed to Salt Lake. pic.twitter.com/0LVfM5o5MH— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 12, 2021
Tuesday will mark the second meeting between the Thunder and the Jazz this season. The first came back on Dec. 28 as the Thunder’s home opener. Utah now holds the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference and the best overall record in the league led by Mitchell and his 26.6 points per night. The Jazz will host the Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back after taking on losing to Washington on Monday night as part of its three-game home stand.
Alongside Mitchell, the Jazz is anchored in the paint by two-time Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. The 7-foot-1 center averages 14.5 points, 13.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per night. His efforts on the defensive glass have lifted the Jazz to the number one spot in the league in rebounds per night.
Outside of the pick and roll threat between Gobert and Mitchell, the Jazz also tout sharpshooters on the perimeter such as Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles as well as All-Star guard Mike Conley who chips in 16.6 points per game. As a result, the Jazz are the only team in the league to sit in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating and thus hold the league’s highest net rating.
Both the Thunder and the Jazz tout second units that consistently contribute on the offensive end. While Utah has only utilized three different starting lineups this season (the fewest in the league), the Thunder has taken a look at a myriad different combination of players both in the starting five and in the second unit. Even still, both teams sit in the top 10 in bench points per night this season.
After posting 47 points against Philly on Saturday, the Thunder second unit has scored 40 or more points in five of the last six games. Tony Bradley led the way off the bench for the Thunder with 16 points and 14 rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting from the field against his former team.
Stat to Watch
Three-Point Attempts — Utah’s 3-point shooting plays an integral role in its offense as it fires off the most attempts per game (43.0). The Jazz connect on those 3-pointers at the fourth highest rate in the league shooting at 39.0 percent this season behind the 48.7-percent shooting of sharpshooter Joe Ingles this season (2nd in the NBA). So far, the Jazz have logged 14 games this season with 20 or more made 3-pointers which marks the second most in a single season in the NBA.
Meanwhile, the Thunder has allowed the seventh-lowest 3-point percentage from its opponents this season. Keep an eye on how the Thunder limits the looks from the 3-point line for Utah and its ability to rotate on the defensive end to fire out to shooters on the perimeter.
OKC UTA pic.twitter.com/Ps4jur58vk— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 12, 2021
The Thunder’s varying lineups this season have allowed for the coaching staff to see its players pay alongside different personnel and player combinations on the floor. For instance, with Bazley now returning to the lineup for the Thunder, he is stepping onto the floor with a swath of new faces that he hadn’t shared the floor with prior to the All-Star Break. Coach Daigneault and his staff now have the opportunity to see the 6-foot-8 forward play alongside the large paint presence of 7-foot-2 Moses Brown and his style of play as well as Thunder newcomer Tony Bradley.
“It's allowing us to kind of explore the boundaries of our system,” said Daigneault. “It's also allowing the players to figure out how to utilize the system with different personnel in different teammates. The more pliable your system can be, the more flexibility you have moving forward in terms of who our front office wants to bring in here or what lineups we want to put on the floor. You want a system that can bend and adapt to different personnel and we've certainly had the opportunity to explore that.”