OKC Wraps Four-Game Road Trip in Indy
Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Tip-Off Time: 6 p.m. CT
Television: Bally Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
Following a stint of five games in seven days, the Thunder wraps up its four-game road trip in Indiana on Wednesday. Its last game on Monday came on the second night of a back-to-back in the nation’s capital where the Thunder competed for a full 48 minutes, battling back from double-digit deficits on two different occasions, but fell shy in the fourth quarter as Washington pulled away. While the end result didn’t fall in OKC’s favor, the effort and competitiveness was a step forward for the group who endured a demanding stretch of basketball and demonstrated its relentless, competitive spirit on the second night of a back-to-back.
“We were right on the doorstep of that one and obviously it didn't go our way,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault after the game. “[Monday’s game] was tremendous progress for us. That was tough travel. We got in late. We're without Lu [Dort] obviously and [Isaiah] Roby, and these guys played man. They really played tonight. I thought the competitiveness, the second quarter on, we really competed.”
Darius Bazley headlined the Thunder scoring attack with a career-high 26 points on Monday to go alongside a career-high 13 free throw attempts. Since his return from injury that kept him out of 16 games for the Thunder, Bazley has averaged 17.8 points per game on 44.0 percent shooting from the field. On Monday, the second year forward also demonstrated his high-level motor as he logged 38 minutes on the floor while taking on the defensive assignment of Russell Westbrook throughout the night.
“He was awesome. He was big time,” said Daigneault. “We matched his minutes so that he could guard Russell. I thought he did a really good job with a game plan there. He played probably the last 15 minutes straight of the game. I didn't think his energy dipped at all. He was big time tonight.”
Off the bench, it was Thunder big man Tony Bradley who chipped in the second-most points of the night with 16 on 7-of-9 from the field. Bradley’s opportunity with the Thunder has allowed him to blossom offensively. During the month of April, the Thunder’s big man has averaged 10.3 points per game and 6.6 rebounds which is up from 7.2 points in March and 3.9 points during the previous three months of the season combined.
NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released the following joint statement today: pic.twitter.com/r0XQkLssOb— NBA (@NBA) April 20, 2021
OKC enters into Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the first and only time this season. For the Pacers, the homecourt advantage hasn’t played entirely to its advantage as Indiana is just 9-17 on its home floor so far this season compared to a 17-14 road record.
The Pacers will be hunting a win to snap their three-game losing streak after falling to the Spurs on Monday 109-94 while dealing with a taste of the injury bug. In that game, the Pacers were without its starting forward Domantas Sabonis, who is tied for third in the league in total double-doubles this season with 40. Indiana also lost it starting center Myles Turner who is out indefinitely after a partial plantar plate tear in his right foot.
In their absence, the Pacers are headlined by veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon who leads the team with 21.3 points per night and is one of just 14 players to average at least 20 points, five assists and five rebounds. On Monday, both Brogdon and recently acquired Caris LeVert posted 18 points to lead all Indiana scorers.
As both the Pacers and the Thunder navigate injuries and changes to their lineups, it has required each teams’ second units to take on a larger role in production. Since the All-Star Break, both the Thunder and the Pacers’ benches rank in the top 10 in scoring. Indiana’s reserves average the third most points per night (41.7) while the Thunder averages the seventh most (39 points per game). Similarly, both units rank in the top 10 in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and assists per night.
Indiana’s T.J. McConnell leads the Pacers’ reserves as he contributes an average of 27.8 points per night via assist or score since March 17. Meanwhile, the Thunder logged yet another game with three players in double figures off the bench: Bradley with 16 and Svi Mykhailiuk and Ty Jerome with 11.
Stat to Watch
Fast-Break Points — Indiana’s defense averages a combined 14.8 steals and blocks per game which ranks second in the NBA. The stops on the defensive end coupled with an up-tempo offensive style helps facilitate an average of 15.9 fast break points each night, second in the league behind only Memphis who averages 16.3.
While transition defense will be critical for the Thunder on Wednesday, the offensive side of the ball will take on an equal importance. Ball protection and quality looks at the basket will limit the amount of run outs Indiana is allowed.
After a prolonged stretch of games where the Thunder dominated in the paint, OKC has seen an uptick in 3-point percentage in its recent slate of games. In six of the last eight contests, Coach Daigneault’s squad has shot 39 percent or better from deep. Even though the Thunder’s scoring numbers have fluctuated between the paint and the 3-point line, the identity and style of play remains the same for the group.
As Bazley explained on Monday following his 26-point performance, “good things happen when you get feet the paint.” This is the mentality that the Thunder has had all season in order to generate quality looks – playing aggressively downhill, getting into the paint and spraying the ball to the open man. In recent stretches, that open man has been spotted up behind the arc.