‘We Want to Get After It’ – Thunder Hosts Lakers in Quick Turnaround
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021
Tip-Off Time: 7 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
On Tuesday, the Thunder played its first game inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena since the New Year, and returning from its impressive five-game East Coast road trip where the squad emerged 4-1. At home, however, the Thunder struggled against a highly efficient San Antonio team to string together enough high-energy plays to pull ahead when it needed it most.
OKC dug itself a hole in the second quarter, getting outscored 25-17 and shooting just 31.6 percent from the field. Even then, the Thunder showed its competitiveness and scrap to attack the basket and get to the free throw line in order to manufacture its elusive offensive rhythm. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would lead the Thunder in scoring with 20 points and every single one of his made baskets came at the rim. His teammates followed the same trend line and by the end of the night, OKC outscored San Antonio 50-36 in the paint.
However, in the fourth quarter, the Thunder’s offensive rhythm fizzled after it tapered down the Spurs’ lead to just four points with 90 seconds to go. Unable to convert on San Antonio’s empty possessions in the waning moments, the Thunder would drop the game 112-102.
“We're hungry guys. We want to get after it each and every night,” said Hamidou Diallo. “It's gonna be great to get out there playing another great team. We're gonna have to bring it from the tip.”
The reigning NBA Champions enter into Chesapeake Energy Arena with the best record in the league of 9-3 after defeating Houston in consecutive matchups. In those two games, the Lakers put their defensive prowess on display with a combined 23 steals and 20 blocks leading to a pair of back-to-back definitive victories.
Los Angeles is headlined by four-time league MVP Lebron James and seven-time All Star Anthony Davis who is questionable to play in Wednesday’s matchup. During its short 71-day offseason, the Lakers bolstered its roster with the new additions of center Marc Gasol, former Thunder guard Dennis Schröder, forward Markieff Morris and guard Wesley Matthews who have all seen minutes in the starting lineup.
As a result, Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel rotates anywhere from 10 to 11 players per night with players like Kyle Kuzma (10.8), Montrezl Harrell (13.0) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (10.1) all averaging double figures each night.
The Lakers are sixth in the league in percentage of points generated from the midrange while the Thunder are 25th in the same area. OKC is fresh off of a game against San Antonio who is third the league in this category, led by LaMarcus Aldridge who has made his living in the space between the paint and the 3-point line.
Look for the Thunder to carry over the lessons it took from its game against San Antonio on Tuesday and apply them against another strong midrange team in the Lakers.
Stat to Watch
Fast-Break Points – The Thunder allow the fewest fast-break points in the league with just 9.4 per game on average. Los Angeles ranks fourth in the league in fast-break points with an average of 16.3 per night. The Lakers’ ability to get out into the open floor stems from its prowess on the defensive end as they tied for first in defensive rating and grab the most defensive rebounds per game.
The Thunder will work to generate high-quality looks offensively while, most importantly, taking care of the ball to limit LA breakouts.
For the Thunder’s last two games, balanced scoring has been on full display as at least six players scored in double figures on both nights. With players at nearly every position with the green light to shoot the ball, Coach Daigneault emphasizes a fast-paced offense that moves the ball for the highest-quality shot on the floor.
“It's just about maximizing the team and there's a lot of different ways to do that,” said Daigneault after the game. “We certainly want the ball moving and we want to find the best shot we can through pace and through movement in each possession.”