A Matchup in Motor City
Date: Friday, April 16, 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 home for the Thunder on Wednesday where it took on the Warriors in the second night of a road-home back-to-back after taking on Utah the night before in Salt Lake City. OKC dropped both contests, but now embarks on a prolonged road trip where the squad will play six of its next seven games on the road.
In the game on Wednesday, Thunder forward Darius Bazley led the charge in scoring as he tied a season high with 22 points on 10-of-18 from the field. In the three games since his return from missing 16 games (right shoulder contusion), Bazley has averaged 15.3 points while shooting 51.3 percent from the field. Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault has praised the 20-year-old’s high level of conditioning and sharpness since returning to the lineup. Bazley credited much of his conditioning to the work of the Thunder's medical staff and training staff who he would work with before and after practice to simulate game-like situations.
“He looks stronger on his drives and on his return play from the injury he took,” said Daigneault. “He’s kind of improved from that coming off the injury. He looks a little sharper. He looks a little strong with his finishes, stronger with the ball, so we gotta keep building on it.”
Thunder center Moses Brown chipped in 18 points on Wednesday to go along with 12 rebounds. The performance gave Brown his third double-double in the past four games including a 12-point, 15-rebound effort the night before against the Jazz and 7-foot center and two-time Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. While the two games posed two very juxtaposing matchups for 7-foot-1 Brown, the second-year big man has soaked up each experience and the lessons that come with them.
“It's just about being ready and staying engaged,” said Brown following Wednesay night’s game. “It's all about the preparation and just being mentally locked in for every single game.”
“I think the last two nights he's kind of gotten his juice back. He definitely started like this. This is kind of how he was playing right off the bat and anytime you're getting double doubles every night you become a line on the scouting report, and I think the opponents kind of adjusted to him and he's had to fight his way through that. These last couple games he's kind of gotten his mojo back a little bit and he's playing pretty good,” said Daigneault. “He's got to keep growing. These are important games for him and important experiences, but it was good to see him the last two nights bounce back.”
It has been just 11 days since the Thunder last faced Detroit. In that game back in Oklahoma City, the Thunder played uphill for the majority of the game as Detroit opened up on a massive run to take control early. The Thunder was without Bazley, Lu Dort and Isaiah Roby who have all since returned to the lineup from their respective injuries.
Since that April 5 matchup, Detroit’s offense has seen a massive boost in its offensive numbers particularly its offensive rating. Prior to April 5, the Pistons ranked 25th with an offensive rating of 107.8, but over the last 11 days, that number has climbed to 115.6 to put the Pistons at 9th overall.
Leading Detroit’s offensive attack is forward Jerami Grant who has posted an average of 28.5 points over the last two games while shooting at a 53.8 percent clip from the field. In the matchup 11 days ago, the 6-foot-8 forward led all scorers with 21 points.
Grant stepped back into the lineup on Wednesday against the Clippers after sitting three games with right knee soreness. In his absence, it was the scoring efforts of forward Josh Jackson that took the lead for the Pistons. In those three games, Jackson averaged 19 points whole shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from the 3-point line.
Keep an eye on the battle at the free throw line. So far this season, Detroit has drawn the fifth most fouls per game which has resulted in the team shooting (23.6) and making (18.3) the fifth most free throws each night. On the flip side, OKC’s defense has consistently been able to keep its opponents away from the charity stripe each night by committing the fifth fewest personal fouls per game and allowing the fourth fewest free throw attempts in the league (19.3).
Stat to Watch
Points in the Paint — While the Thunder fell to Golden State’s red-hot 3-point shooting on Wednesday, OKC held the advantage on paint production as it outscored the Warriors 70-50, which tied a season high. The last time the Thunder scored 70 points in the paint was on April 5 against the Pistons.
Several Thunder players chipped into the paint contributions on Wednesday including 6-foot-8 forward Darius Bazley leading the charge with 20 points in the paint. Thunder big men Tony Bradley and Moses Brown combined for another 29.
Continuing in the paint point conversation, the Thunder also tied a season high in dunks with nine on Wednesday. Moses Brown slammed down four while Bazley chipped in three of his own. This spike in dunks is part of a larger trend for the Thunder this season who has grown its dunk rate to 5.8 percent since the All-Star Break and the return of Moses Brown to the lineup. The Thunder now sits at 12th in the NBA in that category.