Taking Connected Basketball to the West Coast
Date: Friday, April 2, 2021
Tip-Off Time: 9 p.m. CT
Television: Bally Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
OKC closed out its four-game home stand on a high note on Wednesday as every player who stepped onto the floor contributed in a big way to the Thunder’s 113-103 win over Toronto. Offensively, the Thunder logged its sixth consecutive game where all nine players scored, but what’s more intriguing is that not all nine players in Wednesday’s game had played in the Thunder’s previous contest.
With Lu Dort (concussion), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (plantar fasciitis), Darius Bazley (shoulder contusion), Aleksej Pokuševski (health and safety protocols) and Ty Jerome (ankle sprain) all out for the Thunder on Wednesday, it opened the door for Thunder players like Justin Jackson and Darius Miller to step into larger playing time off the bench. Neither Jackson or Miller had played in the Thunder’s previous three contests and yet they stepped into the game and were the two double-digit contributors for OKC’s second unit with 12 and 11 points respectively.
“Their readiness is a barometer of professionalism,” said Daigneault following Wednesday’s game. “To stay mentally engaged enough that when your number gets called, you’re ready to jump right into the competition takes a lot of mental toughness. I give those guys a lot of credit.”
Svi Mykhailiuk took advantage of his extended 35 minutes in his second-consecutive start in a Thunder uniform and logged a season-high 22 points while snatching down a career-high nine rebounds. Mykhailiuk scored 10 of his 22 points in a fourth-quarter flurry to help his team secure its lead down the stretch.
“I just took whatever the game gave to me,” said Mykhailiuk. “I feel like we moved the ball really well and everybody was playing really well so it opened up everything not just for me, but for everybody else.”
Phoenix, who currently sits in the number two spot in the Western Conference standings, holds a 34-14 record this season and a league-best 25-7 record since January 27. That day was the Thunder’s last meeting with Phoenix. In that matchup, the Thunder defeated the Suns 102-97 behind a clutch defensive effort to hold Phoenix to its only game below 100 points all season long. Former Thunder player Chris Paul led the Suns with 32 points in that game – 15 of which came in the final quarter.
Phoenix was without its other All-Star guard and leading scorer in Devin Booker in their last meeting with OKC. Booker averages 25.5 points per contest and posted his sixth career 45-point performance on Wednesday against Chicago. Between Booker and Paul, the Suns rank second in assists per game (27 per night) and second in assist to turnover ratio.
Watch for the battle on the block on Friday. Phoenix’ starting center in Deandre Ayton is one of just 13 players in the league to average a double-double this season with 14.6 points and 10.9 rebounds. He will be going head-to-head against the Thunder’s high-motor big man in Moses Brown for the first time this season who is averaging13.5 points and 13.4 rebounds over the past eight games. Brown is coming off of a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double on Wednesday which marked fifth double-double this season – all of which have come in the last eight games.
Stat to Watch
Offensive Rebounds — The offensive end wasn’t the only area where the Thunder received such collective contributions. OKC pulled down a season-high 64 rebounds which ties for the second most in OKC history. This included a season-high 19 offensive rebounds for the Thunder which the group converted into a season-best 30 second chance points.
In its last game against Chicago, Phoenix gave up 18 offensive boards and 14 second chance points. Keep an eye on how the Thunder looks to take advantage of the offensive glass on Friday.
On Wednesday, the Thunder threw down six dunks which marked the fourth straight game where the team has logged five or more slams. Since the All-Star Break, OKC has nearly doubled its dunk rate in large part due to Moses Brown who leads the team with 35 dunks this season despite being 12th on the team in total games played. Svi Mykhailiuk has added to the Thunder’s dunk total with six of his own in just a matter of seven games with the team. That comes after not logging a single slam during his season and a half with Detroit.