GAME PREVIEW

Paris Lawson

By Paris Lawson | Digital Content Reporter | mailbag@okcthunder.com



All Set for the Spurs

Date: Nov. 7, 2019
Tip-Off Time: 7:30 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network




Thunder Status

The Thunder has picked up some considerable momentum on offense leading up to its game on Thursday against the Spurs. With back-to-back victories against the Pelicans and the Magic, the Thunder’s offense has been operating and flowing at a high level resulting in two straight wins at home.

In its game on Tuesday against the Pelicans, the Thunder proved itself again defensively holding the Magic to only 13.6% (3-22) from behind the arc. On the offensive end, ball movement and gaining one step of separation both played critical roles in the Thunder’s success.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued in his impressive offensive showing on Tuesday by tallying his fifth game with 20+ points. He finished with a game-high 24 points points and shot 3 of 5 from behind the arc. Not far behind him was fellow point guard Chris Paul who chipped in 20 points of his own and dished out six assists on the evening.

Off the bench, rookie Darius Bazley found his mark with a couple of key 3-pointers to help boost the Thunder past the Magic. He finished out the game with a solid performance of 10 points and six rebounds.

“It’s great. Everybody loves to win, obviously. With us winning the last two games and figuring this thing out, I think it gives us a lot of confidence,” said Gilgeous-Alexander.


Opponent Breakdown

Lead by the longest tenured head coach with a single franchise in NBA history in Greg Popovich, the Spurs boast a 4-3 record entering into Thursday’s game. This year’s roster for the Spurs, however, is not as seasoned as its coach. The Spurs have their youngest roster ever since Popovich took the reins in 1996 with nine players under the age of 25 and an average age of 26.3.

While the Spurs youth sticks out, its veterans anchors the team from the inside out. 11-year veteran, DeMar DeRozan leads the offense for the Spurs by averaging 20.6 points per game and shooting 50% from the field. Another sage for the Spurs holds down the paint in LeMarcus Aldridge who brings in 16.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest.

“The Spurs are always a great team,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I haven’t been in the league too long but ever since I’ve been watching the NBA they’ve been a good team. They play well on both sides of the ball. We’ll have to be locked in and bring the same intensity we did last night.”


Matchup Focus

Bench versus bench. Both the Spurs and Thunder second units have posted significant numbers with excellent floor generals coming off the bench for each team. For the Spurs, the 11-year veteran in Patty Mills and leads the second unit averaging 11.9 points and racked up 16 points on 5-6 from the field in the Spurs last game against the Hawks on Tuesday. Also adding to the brawn off the bench for the Spurs is Rudy Gay and Dejounte Murray who average 11.1 and 12.2 points respectively.

For the Thunder, sixth-man Dennis Schröder has proven to be a force of the bench averaging an impressive stat line of 13.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Not far behind him is high-flyer Hamidou Diallo who chips in 9.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. With Bazley also continuing to grow as a force on the floor, there is depth and a lot of firepower on Thunder bench.


Stat to Watch

Offensive rebounds for the Thunder have been a point of emphasis over the past few games. Getting out rebounded on the offensive glass 16-7 on Tuesday against the Magic and then 17-8 on Saturday against the Pelicans. Limiting opponents second chance points at the rim will continue to be a focus especially against a San Antonio squad who has a historically strong force on the offensive glass in Aldridge and great length from the surrounding frontline.

“Yeah, they've always been a good offensive rebounding team,” said Donovan. “Gay's got length and size, Aldridge, (Jakob) Poeltl, all those guys are big guys. It's gonna be a team effort to keep those guys off the backboard because they're generally playing with one big close to the basket.”


Thunder Trend

For the past two games, the Thunder’s fourth quarter defense has been remarkable. The team has only allowed an average of 16.5 points over the past two games ­­– which have also been wins for the Thunder. “I think we’re just locking in and following the game plan,” said Gilgeous-Alexander on why the team’s fourth quarter defense has been so stout. “And then I think we’re just playing off each other defensively as well, knowing where we can play off each other in terms of switches and things like that. We’re just getting better chemistry.”

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