Thunder Hits the Road to the Rockies
Date: Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021
Tip-Off Time: 8 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
After its incredible come-from-behind, overtime win over Chicago on Friday, the Thunder was set to wrap up its four-game homestand on Sunday against Philly. However, due to health and safety protocols, the matchup was postponed by the league after contact tracing prevented the 76ers from having the league-required number of players to proceed with the game.
Rather than head back home, the Thunder took advantage of the empty floor in Chesapeake Energy Arena and put in some practice work before jetting off for its second five-game road trip of the season. As preached by Thunder head Coach Mark Daigneault time and time again this season, OKC looked to make the most of every opportunity it has on the floor to work hard, compete and get better as a group.
Outside of the team-high 25 points per game from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander over the Thunder’s past four games, and the second-career 20-point game from Luguentz Dort, OKC has received much-needed contributions from players throughout its roster. Second-year forward Isaiah Roby has stepped in at the starting center spot for the third time this season and has scored 10 points in all three appearances. Off the bench, Hamidou Diallo continues to provide a timely burst of energy as he is tied for 12th in the league in points off the bench this season. Meanwhile, Kenrich Williams has put up season-highs in points on consecutive occasions for the Thunder while also consistently making the difference-making hustle plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
Against a strong division rival in Denver, look for another balanced offensive attack from the Thunder with high-energy, extra-effort contributions from every player to step onto the floor.
OKC opens up its road trip with a tilt against the Nuggets who dropped its most recent game against the Jazz on Sunday 109-105. In that game, Denver’s big man Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray combined for 65 points and 13 assists. The guard-center duo spearheads the Nuggets’ efficient offense that ranks in the top 10 in the league in points (7th), field goal percentage (5th), 3-point percentage (9th) and offensive rating (3rd).
With eight players averaging 10 or more points for Denver, the Nuggets offense zips the ball around the floor and on average posts 27.2 assists per game which is good for the third best mark in the league.
Defensively, however, Denver sits at 25th in the league in defensive rating and allows the fourth highest 3-point percentage from its opponents. Against the Jazz, it was the 3-point shooting that played a major role in the Nuggets loss as Utah shot 40 percent from deep.
Be on the lookout for how the Thunder’s defense limits looks from Jokic on Tuesday. The Nuggets’ center is the only player in the league averaging a triple double. At 7-feet tall, Jokic is averaging a team-high 25 points, 11.4 rebounds and 10.3 assists. In his last four games, the do-it-all big man has also averaged four steals. It will take a disciplined five-man defensive shell to contain Jokic and make his playmaking opportunities as difficult as possible.
Stat to Watch
Offensive Rebounds – OKC’s ability to finish a play with a secured rebound will be equally important as the defensive execution in the play itself on Tuesday. In Denver’s most recent tilt against the Jazz, the Nuggets grabbed 23 offensive boards compared to Utah’s seven. Look for the Thunder to put an emphasis on finishing each defensive play with a secured rebound and pushing the tempo toward the other end of the floor.
So far this season, the Thunder trails only the Lakers in its record on the road. After finishing its first five-game road trip 4-1 which marked the best record on a trip of five or more games in OKC history, OKC now holds a 5-1 record away from Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder now embarks on its second five-game road trip of the month. Before this season, OKC only played in four such trips in the organization’s history.
Our league, the values and teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr., are inextricably linked. Today, we will pay respect to the life and legacy of MLK through stories of unity, togetherness and equality. #MLKDay pic.twitter.com/APk22mInei— NBA Cares (@nbacares) January 18, 2021