OKC’s Final Homestand Begins with Utah
Date: Friday, May 14, 2021
Tip-Off Time: 7 p.m. CT
Television: Bally Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
The Thunder returned home from its last road trip of the season and enjoyed two days off from games before returning to action inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena for its final two games of the year. In the valuable and rare practice time leading up to its penultimate matchup, the Thunder utilized the time to not only refresh after the four-game stint on the West Coast, but also lean into its development and skill work on the court.
“We gave a goal and we have a vision so we stick to our vision and kept moving forward,” said Thunder wing Svi Mykhailiuk. “There’s still two games to get better and used the practice to get better.”
Those two upcoming matchups for the Thunder will once again come against elite talent in Utah and the LA Clippers. In the same way that the Thunder benefitted from its experiences in Golden State working to defend the likes of Steph Curry and then contain Buddy Hield in Sacramento, the Thunder will look to take advantage of and extract the lessons from the matchups against two very different, very tough opponents.
“All of these experiences have been really good for us. All the players that we've gotten to play against, all the teams that we've gotten to play and so it's just a great barometer of where we're at,” said Thunder head Coach Mark Daigneault. “You want to play against the best teams and the best players because that gives you the most accurate assessment of how far off you are and what you need to work on and that's ultimately what we're trying to find out right now.’
back to work in the 405. pic.twitter.com/8Ssy4BrWID— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) May 13, 2021
It has been one month since the Thunder last faced the Jazz. In that previous game back in mid-April while Utah took the win, it was Luguentz Dort who stole the show as he notched a career-high 42 points while knocking down seven 3-pointers. All the while, the Thunder second-year guard was tasked with defending Utah’s two-time All Star in Donovan Mitchell who the Jazz have been operating without for the past 16 games due to an ankle injury.
Despite Mitchell’s absence in the lineup, the Jazz are the only team in the league who rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating. Offensively, Utah has received strong contributions from multiple sources, most notably Bojan Bogdanovic, who received NBA Player of the Week honors for his 29.3 points per game through the first week of May while shooting at a scoring 62 percent from the field and 53 percent from deep.
Most recently, in Utah’s Wednesday matchup with Portland, it was Jordan Clarkson who headlined the offensive effort with 29 points off the bench on 11-of-17 shooting from the field. In players averaging below 30 minutes per game, Clarkson leads the league in scoring with 18 points per game.
Keep an eye on the matchup under the rim between Thunder big man Moses Brown and Utah’s defensive anchor in Rudy Gobert. The two big men have been strong rim protectors for their respective teams and are coming off of strong individual performances. In his last game against the Blazers, Gobert pulled down 20 rebounds in the effort while Brown logged his 11th double-double of the season against Sacramento. On the offensive glass, Brown ranks third in the league since the All Star Break in offensive rebounds per game while Gobert sits at seventh in the same category.
Stat to Watch
Three-pointers Made – Even without Mitchell in the lineup, the Jazz hold the number one spot in the league in 3-pointers attempted and made each night. As a result, 43.2 percent of Utah’s total points are scored from the 3-point line. With a team like the Jazz who shoots at such a high rate, the priority for the Thunder won’t be to take every look away, but to make sure every look is as contested as possible.
After its game against Sacramento, the Thunder has now logged 27 games this season where six or more players have scored in double figures which marks a new Thunder record. With just two games remaining on the schedule for the Thunder, be on the lookout for the squad to lean into its identity of sharing the ball and getting everyone involved offensively.