Closing Out the Homestand with the Kings
Date: Tuesday, May 4, 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 put up a resilient, bounce-back performance on Sunday against the No. 1 team in the Western Conference. After a tough loss to the Pacers on Saturday, the Thunder invoked its zero-and-zero mentality to put up a 48-minute effort on the second night of a back-to-back.
Despite trailing by as many as 18 points in the fourth quarter, the Thunder kept its foot on the gas to make it a two-possession game with just seconds to go. Although the Thunder fell short of the full comeback, it was a testament to the resilience and maturity of this young group to remain locked into its game plan and execute down the stretch.
It took a full-team effort for the Thunder to overcome such a margin including a massive offensive performance from the second unit who tied for the second most bench points in OKC history with 65 points. For the first time this season, the Thunder had four reserves in double figures: Isaiah Roby, Gabriel Deck, Kenrich Williams and Ty Jerome.
“These guys were awesome on a number of levels,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “First of all, tonight was a test of our zero and zero mindset with how we played last night. I thought everybody came ready to play and learned the lesson but then moved on and got ourselves into the competition. We played a 48-minute game.”
In the starting lineup, rookie Théo Maledon made his own mark on the Thunder history books as he set a new OKC rookie record for 3-pointers made in a season. Maledon’s three triples on Sunday gave him 96 for the season, surpassing Alex Abrines’ 94.
“It’s definitely humbling,” said Maledon. “Really blessed to be able to achieve that.”
Sacramento is the only team left on OKC’s remaining seven-game schedule who the Thunder hasn’t played yet this season. The Kings are coming off of pair of wins over Western Conference power players in Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers – both wins coming without their star leading scorer in De’Aaron Fox who averages 25.2 points per night but has missed the last five games due to health and safety protocols.
Fox is one of multiple players for the Kings who have missed games recently including starter Harrison Barnes (groin) and rookie Tyrese Haliburton, who left Sunday’s game against Dallas early with a knee injury.
It was former Oklahoma Sooner Buddy Hield and forward Marvin Bagley III who headlined the Kings’ offensive attack on Sunday’s win against the Mavericks. Hield led Sacramento with 27 points including a six-of-10 performance from three while Bagley chipped in 23 and nine rebounds. Kings’ center Richuan Holmes has been a force on the block since he returned from a hamstring injury averaging 18.4 points and shooting 66.7 percent from the field in the five games he’s been back.
Keep an eye on the paint production from both teams on Tuesday. The Thunder’s aggressive, downhill, paint-hunting offense has averaged 50.8 points in the paint over the last five games, putting the team at 10th in the league over that time frame. Sacramento ranks sixth in the same category with 53.2 points in the paint while also logging 42 games this season with 50 or more paint points (fourth in the league.)
Defensively, however, Sacramento’s numbers are at an all-time low as the team sits at the bottom of the league in defensive rating (117.9), points allowed (118.8) and opponent points in the paint (53.8). The Thunder also allow a generous 50.9 points in the paint each night throughout this season. Be on the lookout for how each team protects the paint in Tuesday’s matchup.
Stat to Watch
Bench Points – While the Thunder will be fresh off of an historic 65-point bench performance, keep an eye on how the Kings utilize their second unit in the midst of navigating player injuries. Keep an eye on Delon Wright who has provided a consistent boost off the bench in the 19 games that he’s played with the Kings this season, averaging 8.3 points and coming off of a 14-point performance against Dallas. In the possible absence of Barnes, Fox and Haliburton, the efforts of Wright and the second unit could play a major role in the Kings’ offensive production on Tuesday.
True to its identity, Sunday’s matchup marked the 32nd game this season where every player to step on the floor for the Thunder scored and the seventh game with seven or more players scoring in double figures. Several players have now strung together sizeable offensive games in various roles for the team. For instance, with 15 points against Phoenix, Ty Jerome logged his 17th game in double figures off the bench, which ranks sixth among all second-year players. Similarly, the Thunder’s hustle leader Kenrich Williams also scored 15 points off the bench on Sunday, which logged his third game with 15 or more points in the last seven contests.