Paris Lawson

By Paris Lawson | Digital Content Reporter |

High Energy Needed to End Homestand on a High Note

Date: January 18, 2020
Time: 8 p.m. CT
Television: FOX Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS The Sports Animal

Thunder Status

It’s the second night of a back-to-back for both the Thunder and Portland. On Friday, the Thunder dropped its third straight home game at the hands of Miami. Common among all three games was a slow start in the first quarter for the Thunder and a blistering offensive start for its opponent. In Friday’s case the Thunder were outscored 40-26 in the first quarter and forced to play from behind the rest of the game.

Regardless, the Thunder found ways to cut the margin to single digits after trailing by as many as 22. Aggressive attacks to the rim, disciplined stops on defense and a few 3-pointers in its direction and the Thunder had a window of opportunity to stage a comeback. However, in all three losses at home, the Thunder’s opponent shot at an above-average clip making any comeback from over 20-points virtually impossible.

“We’ve shown great resolve to be able to fight back, to get back in games but it’s a hard place to play from,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “At one point it was a great coming back and finding ways to win and we know we have that but against certain teams it becomes very, very difficult to come back and win so we’ve got to get ready to play again [Saturday] and hopefully, we’ve talked about it and we’ve got to be better at those things.”

“We’ll need to come out and follow the game plan,” said Hamidou Diallo. “Be prepared to take care of our bodies and get some rest for [Saturday].”

Opponent Breakdown

The Trail Blazers are also looking to get the bad taste out of their mouth after a loss on Friday in Dallas. This marks the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Portland with the Blazers holding the 2-1 edge so far this season. The most recent game resulted in a 108-96 win for OKC behind four quarters of strong defense and a clutch performance late from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. The Thunder will need to muster a similar effort on Saturday to combat the many threats Portland present.

Right off the bat, the Blazers’ backcourt demands attention. Guards C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard make up one of the highest scoring duos in the league averaging nearly 48 points per game combined. Moving through the lineup, Carmelo Anthony contributes consistently high numbers on offense for Portland and has averaged 19 points over the past four games. Holding down the paint is 7-foot center Hassan Whiteside who, on Friday, racked up a 21-point, 18-rebound double-double.

Matchup Focus

In the second half of back-to-backs, depth on the roster becomes paramount. Teams rely on a strong bench and solid reserves when weary legs and fatigue set in from the short turnaround. In Saturday’s case both the Thunder and Blazers have encountered bumps and bruises within its starting lineup which means next man up for the reserves. In this category, the Thunder bench has the edge on Portland’s averaging 39 points per game versus 27 from the Blazers.

“Coming in back-to-backs you need everybody,” said Donovan. “Everybody’s got to raise it off the bench more.”

Stat to Watch

Mid-range points ­­­– Both Portland and the Thunder sit in the top-10 in the league in percentage of points from the midrange with Portland at third and OKC at sixth. However, the Thunder are top of the league in field goal percentage from the midrange at 48 percent.

The Thunder’s mantra all season when facing opponents who thrive in the midrange is to make those looks as contested as possible. On the other end, for Thunder guards Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder, those mid-range jumpers come at the same ease as layups.

Thunder Trend

The Thunder’s Italian sharp-shooter, Danilo Gallinari continues in his streak of elite 3-point shooting. In the Thunder’s game against Toronto on Wednesday, Gallinari notched a new Thunder record with 11 straight games with three or more 3-pointers. On Friday, he stepped it up a notch by knocking down a career-high seven triples on the way to a 27-point game. This also marks the fifth straight game in which Gallinari has put up over 23 points.


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