Shifting Defense into High Gear Against the Pistons
Date: February 7, 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 StatusThe Thunder enter into its second game of February and the second of four-straight home games on Friday. In contrast to January, the Thunder operated on Wednesday with a full complement of healthy players outside of Andre Roberson. In that game, the Thunder squeaked out a late-game victory over Cleveland behind a 30-point performance from sixth-man Dennis Schröder.
Despite forcing 20 Cleveland turnovers throughout the game, the Thunder found itself in a late-game battle that came down to the final minute. With a four-point advantage, it was Schröder who forced the game-winning turnover by picking up Collin Sexton full court, forcing him to change direction and ultimately forcing a steal to clinch the game.
Schröder’s 30-point performance marked his eighth straight game with 20 or more points, seven of which came as a reserve — a new OKC record.
“He’s a great competitor,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan following Schröder’s performance on Wednesday. “I think he’s really playing at a high level and he’s done a really, really good job for us and he’s been a great spark off the bench. I’ve said this before, he’s certainly more than worthy of being a starter in this league and I appreciate his sacrifice of willing to come off the bench. The role that he’s fulfilled for our team has really, really been impactful to the entire group.”
Opponent BreakdownThe Pistons have operated shorthanded in its past two games without Derrick Rose in the lineup due to injury (adductor strain) and coming into Friday’s game, the Pistons are now without center, Andre Drummond in the lineup following Thursday’s trade deadline that sent him to Cleveland. The Pistons now tout a fleet of scoring threats beyond the arc including five rotation players who shoot at a clip between 37 and 41 percent.
Included in that mix is Pistons’ point guard, Reggie Jackson who knocked down a season-high five triples on Wednesday against the Suns on the way to a 25-point performance — another season high.
Matchup FocusOutside of the starters, Detroit’s bench brings in the third most points in the league with 48 per game. Detroit reserves, Langston Galloway and Christian Wood combined for 36 points off the bench against Phoenix on Wednesday.
This sets the stage for a battle between the benches for Friday. The Thunder reserves have outscored its opponent in 38 of the Thunder’s 51 games and are led by sixth-man Dennis Schröder who leads all reserves with 19 points per game. Defensively, the Thunder bench also holds opponent reserves to the lowest scoring average per contest.
Stat to Watch3-Point Percentage . Behind sharpshooters like Jackson, Snell and Svi Mykhailiuk, the Pistons shoot the fifth best clip in the league from deep at 37 percent. Snell, Mykhailiuk and Galloway all sit in the top 30 in the league in that category which, for the second straight game, will put the Thunder’s 3-point defense to the test. On Wednesday, Cleveland put up 15 triples against the Thunder including four from Collin Sexton. Look for a Thunder team that is locked in on forcing tough, contested shots from behind the arc.
Thunder TrendWith the Thunder’s win on Wednesday, the team moved to 18-4 in clutch games since November 25th which is good for the most clutch wins in the NBA during that timeframe. Even when shots weren’t falling in the Thunder’s direction late game on Wednesday, it was a staunch defensive effort that put the Thunder in a position to win the game down the stretch.
“Those guys do a good job of concentrating and focusing, and I think they understand what they have to do,” said Donovan. “There is good communication between the group on what is going on and what is available…but you really want to be able to keep playing at a high level and standard all the time. We made some plays, which was great to see because you want to be able to find ways to win games.”