Back Home, Back to Work Against Detroit
Date: Monday, April 5, 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
It was a quick trip out west for the Thunder, who faced a tough back-to-back against Phoenix on Friday and Portland on Saturday. The squad fell in both contests, but logged extremely valuable minutes against two of the league’s highest-caliber backcourts – Phoenix’s duo of Chris Paul and Devin Booker and Portland’s Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. It’s the lessons from those opportunities that the coaching staff values on the feedback loop of development with its young roster.
“Hopefully, the guys reflect on those experiences we’ll obviously help them with that. And that's how you get better,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “We’ve just got to learn the lessons. You can’t make excuses, you just got to get back to work. Learn the lessons, improve, continue to progress through all the ups and downs in the season.”
OKC has consistently received contributions from every single player to step on to the floor which means major production from the second unit. In its last game against Portland, the Thunder second unit poured in 52 points which ties the second most from the Thunder this season. Three different players scored in double figures off the bench on Friday including Kenrich Williams who scored a team-high 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
“It’s trusting my work and just having that faith,” said Williams. “My teammates believe in me, the coaching staff believes in me and that makes the game so much easier, just knowing that those guys have confidence in you.”
The Thunder has been able to explore its roster as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort and Darius Bazley have been out with injury. One player in particular who has gotten extended minutes in a larger playmaking role is Aleksej Pokuševski, who logged four assists in each contest over the back-to-back on the way to averaging four assists in the last five games.
The young Detroit Pistons are looking to right the ship after falling to New York 125-81 on Saturday in the final game of their four-game home stand. Detroit is led offensively by forward Jerami Grant, who scored a team-high 16 points on Saturday.
In his first season with the Pistons, Grant is averaging 22.4 points per game – a 10.4-point jump from his previous season average which marks the largest point per game increase in the league.
Detroit’s starting rookie forward Saddiq Bey has established himself as a sharp-shooter throughout the league as he's cashed in on 104 threes so far this season, which marks the second most by any rookie in Pistons’ history. The rookie also ranks first in 3-point percentage among all first-year players and seventh in total points per game.
Meanwhile, Detroit’s newest addition of Hamidou Diallo has also played a role in his four games with the Pistons averaging the second-most points per game for the Pistons with 14.5 points on 58.8 percent shooting out of the second unit.
Since the beginning of March, the Pistons and the Thunder have received steady contributions from their starting big men. Both OKC’s Moses Brown and Detroit’s Mason Plumlee are two of just 12 players in the league to average 10 points, 10 rebounds and shoot 55 percent or better since March 1.
Plumlee ranks eighth in the league in field goal percentage and leads Detroit in double doubles this season with 14. After Brown’s 10-point, 14-rebound performance on Saturday, the rookie has logged six double-doubles in a matter of 10 games.
Stat to Watch
Turnovers — Both Detroit and OKC are coming off games where turnovers played a major role in the flow of the game. The Pistons committed 15 turnovers to New York on Sunday as the Thunder recorded 22. Expect the Thunder to put an emphasis on ball protection Monday evening.
“There’s a lot of different kinds of turnovers,” said Daigneault. “The ones where we’re trying to do too much by either over-penetrating or trying to make a more complicated pass than we need to rather than the A and B pass, those are the ones you have to correct immediately and have less tolerance for.”
The Thunder has profited from its effort on the offensive glass as of late. Over the last five games, the Thunder has averaged 12.4 offensive rebounds which have led to 17.2 second chance points – the fourth most in the league over that time frame. Leading the charge is Thunder big man Moses Brown, who ranks second in the NBA in offensive rebounds since the All-Star Break with 4.5 each night.