Heading South to Face the North
Date: Sunday, April 18, 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
The Thunder heads to Tampa, the temporary home of Toronto Raptors, to continue its four-game road trip through the Eastern Conference. Friday in Detroit, after a strong start by the Thunder to take an 11-point lead, the Pistons responded with a surge of offense that spanned the second and third quarters to regain firm control of the game and take a 15-point lead.
Thunder second-year guard Luguentz Dort played a massive role on both ends of the floor to help OKC ignite a 12-4 run and cut the game down to just one point. Dort logged 12 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter alone all while defending Detroit’s leading scorer in Josh Jackson.
Though the Thunder could not mount the full comeback, the resilient effort was yet another example of the identity that Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault has been preaching all season long – competing for a full 48 minutes.
“The fire was burning throughout the game competitively and that's what you have to do,” said Daigneault. “Even at the worst moments for us, the worst moments were execution moments. They weren't effort moments, and they weren't competitiveness moments. There's a lot we have to learn. We're drinking from a firehose a little bit. But the first thing and number one that we have to get done is to compete every single night and to compete with great effort and great togetherness. I thought we did that [on Friday.]”
Two and a half weeks have transpired since the Thunder last faced the Raptors. In that March 31 game, the resilient Thunder bounced back from an early deficit to win the game thanks to a strong fourth quarter effort from Thunder wing Svi Mykhailiuk, who scored 10 in the frame.
Since that last day in March, the Raptors have opened up the month of April with a 5-4 record and have seen increases in its overall offensive numbers. Besides points and field goal percentage, the Raptors went from a -11.5 rebound differential to a +1.7 over that time frame. In the Thunder’s last game against Toronto, OKC recorded a season-high plus-29 effort on the glass that led to 30 second chance points.
Toronto’s offense is led by Pascal Siakam (20.8 points per game) and followed narrowly behind by recently-acquired Norman Powell (19.6). Anchoring the backcourt is the duo of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, who average a combined 36.6 points and 2.8 steals. Both of the backcourt stalwarts have trended down recently in scoring. Lowry rested in Toronto’s most recent game on Friday while VanVleet scored just six points.
workin’ on the weekend like usual. pic.twitter.com/3WhNefmVwO— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 17, 2021
The two top players in the NBA in terms of offensive fouls drawn will be on the court Sunday afternoon – Kyle Lowry and Luguentz Dort. The Thunder defensive ace leads the league in this category with 45 offensive fouls drawn in a matter of just 44 games. Lowry holds the number two spot with 36 charges drawn in 40 games played.
Stat to Watch
Turnovers — After turning the ball over 22 times against the Pistons, the Thunder offensive execution will be put to the test yet again in Tampa. The Raptors lead the league in forced turnovers per game and rank fifth in steals per game with 8.4 per game.
On the other hand, the Thunder defense put on a strong showing against Detroit as it tied a season high in steals and blocks combined (21). Four Thunder players registered at least two steals and three players swatted away at least two blocks. Thunder big man Tony Bradley found himself in both categories having logged a pair of each.
Over the past two weeks, the Thunder has seen a welcomed boost in terms of paint production. After ranking 20th in the league in points in the paint, the Thunder how ranks fifth in the category in games played since April 5. Similarly, over the same time frame, the Thunder ranks first in percentage of field goal attempts from the paint.
After logging 60 points in the paint on Friday and a season-high-tying 70 points on Wednesday, the Thunder has now logged 50 or more points in the paint in five of its last seven games. Several different factors have played into the Thunder’s boost in paint production including the Thunder’s offensive goal of touching the paint on each possession. OKC has also received contributions from its two traditional rolling big men in Tony Bradley and Moses Brown who over that seven game time span have averaged a combined 20.4 points and 17.2 rebounds.