GAME PREVIEW


Paris Lawson



Thunder Balanced Offense Hosts 76ers

Date: Saturday, April 10, 2021

Tip-Off Time: 8 p.m. CT

Television: Bally Sports Oklahoma

Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network


Thunder Status

After three games inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder wraps up its four-game home stand with a tilt against the second-place team in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers. It has been a tough stretch of battling injuries and condensed scheduling for the Thunder, who has been able to utilize the opportunity to explore its players and its roster with different lineups and player combinations.

As a result, the Thunder has seen a wide variety of players step up and lead the way offensively. In its last game on Thursday, that player was second-year guard Ty Jerome. After going 0-for-6 from the floor just 24 hours prior against Charlotte, Jerome demonstrated true mental toughness and posted a career-high 23 points with a career-high nine made field goals.

“He's a guy he puts a lot of work in. He's a workhorse in the gym and the guys like that, that's where they get their confidence from, they get their conference from their work,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “I thought that showed through [against Cleveland] with how he shot the ball, and I thought he played a really good floor game too.”

Against Cleveland, the Thunder also put together its second consecutive game with a strong start. Thanks to a burst of early offense from Théo Maledon, who ripped off eight of the Thunder’s first 14 points, OKC’s offense posted 38 first quarter points. After Thursday, Coach Daigneault’s squad is now averaging 33.5 first-quarter points, 10.5 assists and shooting 64 percent from the 3-point line over the past two games. Against Cleveland, that early burst of offense wouldn’t be enough to sustain the group through the next three frames as the Cavs offense continued to surge en route to 129 points.

“I thought we brought it competitively [on Thursday] and didn't execute on the level that it would have taken to really hold them in check,” said Daigneault.

Opponent Breakdown

Philly enjoyed two days off following its win over Boston to kick off its four-game road trip. The team now faces a back-to-back that begins in New Orleans on Friday and wraps in Oklahoma City on Saturday.

The 76ers will have the services of its star big-man Joel Embiid, who has returned to the lineup after missing 10 consecutive games with a left knee bone bruise. Since his return, the 7-foot center has averaged 29.5 points per game including a 35-point performance against Boston on Tuesday where he sank 16 free throws.

Adding to Philly’s attack is Tobias Harris, who is averaging an additional 20 points and seeven rebounds per game. Between Harris and Embiid, the two combine for 50.4 points per game which makes them the third-highest scoring duo in the league.

However, it has been the defensive end where the 76ers have thrived this season as they hold the second-highest defensive rating in the league. Culprits such as Embiid, who average 1.4 blocks per game inside, and the combination of Danny Green, Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, all averaging roughly a steal and a half each night, has led Philly to the top spot in blocks per game (6.3) and the number two spot in steals (8.9).

Matchup Focus

Since the All-Star Break, the Thunder rebounding efforts have landed the squad at seventh in the league in rebounds per night. Sitting at sixth is the 76ers, who average 46.7 boards per game. Throughout the season, Philly also ranks fourth in rebound differential by outrebounding its opponents by four boards on average each night. Keep an eye on the Thunder’s efforts in cleaning the glass and securing boards after each defensive play.

Stat to Watch

Free Throw Attempts — In the Thunder’s last game against Cleveland, the Cavs shot 11 more free throw attempts than OKC. Throughout the season, the Thunder has consistently kept its opponents off the charity stripe, ranking third in opponent free throw attempts per game. On Saturday, that trend will once again be tested against a physical Philly team who averages the most free throw attempts and makes each night. Disciplined defense will be critical against the 76ers who receive 17.7 percent of their points from the free throw line.

Thunder Trend

As the Thunder navigates this tough stretch of games battling injuries and changes to its lineups, one of the biggest rallying cries has been solving problems with all five players on the floor. Combining that mantra with the opportunity to explore the roster, and the Thunder offensive production has stemmed from a multitude of players.

So far this season, the Thunder leads the league in number of players who have led the team in scoring with 11 different players. Since the All-Star break alone, the Thunder has seen nine different players in the top scoring spot which has led to an extremely balanced attack as the Thunder now has 11 players averaging 9.5 or more points.

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