A Showdown in Sactown
Date: January 29, 2020
Tip-Off Time: 9 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
Thunder StatusAfter five straight victories, the Thunder dropped its most recent tilt against the Mavericks at home. A poor shooting performance coupled with relinquished second chances gave Dallas all the edge it needed to defeat the Thunder 107-97.
OKC shot an uncharacteristic 39 percent from the field and a subpar 18 of 46 from the paint. Meanwhile, Dallas’s 3-point shooting percentage wasn’t spectacular, but the team knocked down 19 triples and when the Mavs missed, its 12 offensive rebounds kept them afloat and ahead.
The Thunder now looks to take the lesson from Monday and wrap up its busiest month of the season on a high note with two road games beginning in Sacramento and ending in Phoenix. The Thunder are currently 10-5 in January and 22-9 since Thanksgiving, the third best record in the league during that time span.
“I think it’s a great lesson for our team in terms of establishing a defensive identity, trying to do that every single game and this was a game where we really needed that,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan after the game against Dallas. “Those kinds of plays, because of our shooting were really hard to overcome.”
Opponent BreakdownThe Kings wrapped up its five-game road swing in dramatic fashion with a comeback, overtime win over Minnesota on Monday. Sacramento overcame a 22-point deficit with just under six minutes remaining in regulation. Behind the high-scoring efforts of Buddy Hield who notched 42 points, the Kings put up a season-high 69 points in the second half to send the game into overtime.
This performance was slightly reminiscent of the Kings’ win over the Thunder back in early December. In the middle of its longest road trip of the season, the Thunder built up a 14-point lead twice in the contest. The Kings then unleashed a 14-5 run to bring itself back into the game. Ultimately, a 3-pointer from Bogdan Bognaovic with 17 seconds left would serve as the game winner for the Kings.
In addition to Hield and Bogdanovic, Sacramento also boasts third year guard D’Aaron Fox and forward Nemanja Bjelica who have averaged a combined 35 points per game over the past five contests.
Matchup FocusThe guard matchup between Hield and the Thunder guards was a major storyline in the Thunder’s previous bout with the Kings. The Kings’ point guard is constantly in motion on offense and shoots nearly 10 3-pointers a game to help lift him to an average of 20 points. Thunder guards such as Dennis Schröder will have the tall task of staying in front of him, limiting his looks and forcing him to either take tough shots or give up the ball.
Stat to WatchSecond Chance Points. The Thunder’s first shot defense has done a great job of forcing misses from its opponents. In its last game against the Mavericks, it was second chance opportunities that played a major role in the Thunder’s loss. This will also be a factor in the Thunder’s matchup with the Kings as they put up a lot of 3-pointers which leads to long rebounds. In their last matchup, the Kings recorded 15 second chance points versus the Thunder’s seven. Look out for a Thunder defense sends all five to rebound and come away with the defensive rebound.
Thunder TrendOn Monday, Thunder’s sixth-man Dennis Schröder recorded his first start of the season. In that game, he racked up a team-high 21 points with three 3-pointers and a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line. This marked his fifth straight game with 20 or more points while averaging 24 points over that time frame.