Thunder's Balanced Offense Turns the Page to Dallas
Date: January 27, 2020
Tip-Off Time: 7 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
Thunder StatusEvery single Thunder player played a role in OKC’s ability to muster five consecutive wins and nine out of ten victories on the road. Riddled with injury and adversity, the Thunder remained resilient and put itself in positions to be successful no matter the situation. Most recently, the Thunder faced the Timberwolves and the one-two punch of Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns. The drop in manpower meant a switch up in the starting lineup with Darius Bazley starting at forward and the fourth straight start for rookie Luguentz Dort.
By the end of the night, seven out of the nine Thunder players who saw action notched double figures in scoring for the second straight game and fourth time on the season. The ball moved, the offensive tempo quickened, and the Thunder stuck with the game plan. Though the results show seven players in double figures, the bigger feat is the consistency by which OKC’s offense not only remains productive, but runs at a high level in the midst of lineup changes and adversity.
“We’ve got a group that’s really competitive, I think they like playing with one another and there’s a resiliency about them and they lift each other up,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “They like competing and playing and they’ve done a really good job working together which is great.”
Opponent BreakdownDallas puts up 116 points per game while committing the fewest turnovers in the league. As a result, the Mavericks boast the best offensive rating behind high scorers like reigning Rookie of the Year, Luka Doncic (29 ppg) and center Kristaps Porzingis (17 ppg). With the added scoring power of sharp-shooter Seth Curry (10 ppg) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (14 ppg), the Mavs wield multiple weapons on the floor which allows them to put up the third-most points per game.
In its previous meeting with Dallas on New Year’s Eve, the Thunder edged the Mavericks in the fourth quarter behind the crunch-time performance of Chris Paul. However, it was Dallas who got out to a quick start behind Doncic who finished the game with 35 points and boosted his team to an early 32-20 lead in the first frame. The Thunder will look to get out to a quick start defensively especially after giving up 19 first quarter points to Karl Anthony Towns on Saturday in Minneapolis.
Matchup FocusDoncic, who has the third-most triple doubles this season with 12, will be a major focus for Thunder perimeter defenders on Monday. In the Thunder’s last game against Dallas, Doncic scored 17 points in the first quarter which gave the Mavs the energy advantage right out of the gates. For the Thunder to maintain control of the game, it will need to install disciplined defense for 48 minutes to contain Doncic and limit his scoring opportunities.
Stat to WatchThree-point attempts – The Mavs will send up a lot of 3-pointers on Monday from every single position. They rank second in the league in 3-pointers made and attempted per game. On Saturday in Minnesota, the Thunder allowed 43 attempts from deep by the Wolves who rank third in 3-point attempts per game but held them to only 27 percent. Similarly, on New Year’s Eve, Dallas was limited to only 29 percent from downtown thanks to the hard-fought defensive effort of Thunder perimeter players. The Thunder will look to deploy this style of 3-point defense again on Monday by only allowing contested, uncomfortable looks from behind the arc.
Thunder TrendThe Thunder’s youth contingent has played a major role in OKC’s success over the past three games. While injuries keep critical role players sidelined, it has opened the door for younger players to play pivotal and meaningful minutes.
Over the past three games, Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort (players 21-years-old or younger) have combined for nearly 42 points per game on 54.9 percent shooting from the field. On Saturday, all four reached double digits scoring and helped push the Thunder past Minnesota.
“They come in ready. They’re competing, playing hard, trying to do what’s right for the team and trying to play together unselfishly,” said Donovan. “Anytime you have young players that are working like that, you want to see them have success and it’s been great watching those guys evolve over the course of the year.