Another Matchup in Minneapolis
Date: January 25, 2020
Tip-Off Time: 7 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
Thunder StatusOn the second night of a road-home back to back, the Thunder take to Minnesota on the heels of one of its best shooting nights of the season. In its 140-111 victory against the Hawks, seven players scored in double figures leading to the squad’s highest scoring performance and largest victory of the season. The Thunder shot lights-out from the field and put together a full 48 minutes of offense shooting 58 percent from the field and 56 from behind the arc.
After a slight lull in defensive intensity in the first half, the Thunder clamped down in the second which served as a catalyst for offensive production on the other end of the floor. In the third quarter alone, the Thunder shot seven of nine from the 3-point line. Leading in the scoring column for the Thunder was Danilo Gallinari who tallied 25 points on just 10 shot attempts. That’s the kind of shooting night it was for the Thunder. Both Gallinari and Mike Muscala knocked down four 3-pointers on just six attempts with Dennis Schröder chipping in three out of four.
“We’re just playing. We do that every game and sometimes it’s just falling,” said Schröder. “[Friday] was that night. We moved it pretty well, everybody hit shots but it starts with our defense. In the second half everybody was in it, played with energy and then offensively we just played.”
It has been a whirlwind of offensive production from the Thunder over the past two games. Although the Thunder was down two starters in both contests, OKC managed to put up an average of 130 points and stretch its current winning streak to four games.
Opponent BreakdownThe Wolves enter into Friday on the second night of a back-to-back as well. In its game on Friday, Minnesota lost to Houston bringing their current losing streak to eight games, the longest of its season. However, despite the current downward trend in the record books, the Timberwolves’ leading scorer in Karl Anthony Towns has been trending upward recently.
The 7-foot center averages a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds while also shooting at the highest 3-point percentage on the team with 40.9 percent accuracy. After missing 15 games between December 18th to January 15th, Towns has notched averages of 35 points in his past two games while shooting an efficient 59.6 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from behind the arc.
Just behind Towns in scoring is Andrew Wiggins on the perimeter who chips in 26 points per contest. The duo of Wiggins and Towns puts defenders in a bind especially when they operate in the pick and roll because of their size and ability to score from both inside the paint and beyond the arc. The Wolves will also put up a lot of 3-point attempts behind Wiggins and Towns who lead the team in attempts per game. The Wolves sit at third in the league in 3-point attempts per game as a team and outside of Wiggins and Towns who average a combined 14.8 attempts, forward Robert Covington chips in six of his own as well.
Matchup FocusThe Thunder have proven in recent games that even with a disadvantage in stature, it can hold its own around the rim whether it’s rebounding or finding ways to finish in the lane. However, the Thunder have yet to face the Wolves when both Towns and Wiggins are active. This presents a new challenge with every Timberwolves starter standing above 6-foot-7 with the one exception of their 6-foot-1 point guard in Shabazz Napier. Be on the lookout for how the Thunder use its athleticism and speed to its advantage against a bigger lineup.
Stat to WatchRebounds . The Thunder’s challenge will be on the glass. With Minnesota’s length and size at each position, they have the edge when it comes to cleaning the boards. However, the Thunder have outrebounded its opponent in the past three games even while standing at a disadvantage in size and in the series matchup between the Wolves and the Thunder, OKC has outrebounded Minnesota 45 to 36. The Wolves are 2-12 when their opponent out rebounds them which means it will be critical for the Thunder to send all five to the glass and make an effort in the rebounding game.
Thunder TrendIn the past two games, the Thunder’s offense has been humming at a high level resulting in an average of 59.3 percent from the field and 52.3% from the 3-point line. As a result, the Thunder is averaging 130 points over the past two contests. In those games, the Thunder was without two starters (Steven Adams and Terrance Ferguson) which required the next man up to be ready to make an impact.
Thunder center, Mike Muscala stepped up big time by knocking down eight 3-pointers over the course of the two games on nine total attempts. Seven of his makes were assisted by none other than his long-time friend, Dennis Schröder.
“That’s my guy. I’m always confident in him. Every time he shoots it, I think it’s in,” said Schröder. “He’s a hell of a teammate, and he just deserves getting the ball, and I mean he’s doing it on both ends of the floor, defensively, offensively. Even off the court, he’s a hell of a teammate, so credit to him.”