GAME PREVIEW


Paris Lawson



One Last Go Against Golden State

Date: Saturday, May 8, 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


Thunder Status

After falling to Golden State on Thursday, the Thunder now has a reel of fresh film to review and analyze before facing the Warriors again just 48 hours later and beginning an action-packed weekend. The Saturday matchup will mark the start of the final back-to-back of the season for OKC, who will travel to Sacramento for a pair of games against the Kings starting on Sunday.

Though the Thunder fell 118-97 on Thursday, it demonstrated the steady momentum of improvement it’s been building all season long. Winning the free throw line battle with 20 attempts compared to Golden State’s 18; taking care of the ball with just 10 turnovers and handling the Warriors pesky perimeter defense. Thunder point guards Théo Maledon and Ty Jerome headlined the offensive effort, learning from its first matchup with Golden State and withstanding their pressure in order to generate quality looks at the basket.

In the first quarter, Maledon posted 10 points while Jerome added 12 in the second on the way to a 16-point first half performance to help keep OKC’s offense afloat. By the end of the night, Jerome led the Thunder with a career-high-tying 23 points as second-year forward Darius Bazley added 22 of his own.

“We did a lot of good things,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “We’ve just got to clean up some stuff defensively, get back and transition and keep generating good looks and keep let them fly with confidence.”

Opponent Breakdown

On Thursday, Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 34 points on 11-of-21 shooting, as Thunder guard Lu Dort fell into early foul trouble and was forced to the sideline in the first half. Even still, it was the Warriors’ role players who elevated Golden State past the Thunder throughout the game. Off the bench, second-year guard Mychal Mulder recorded 25 points behind seven made 3-pointers to help lift the Warriors’ second unit to 46 points.

“Against a team like Golden State with a player like Curry, you want to make the role players beat you and tonight we got a little loose on Curry, but you’ve got to credit those guys. Mulder made shots, (Juan Toscano-Anderson) was really good. Green, obviously is beyond a role player but was really good facilitating,” said Daigneault following Thursday’s loss. “We made them go deep into possessions and they made the right plays. They're a good team, but there's some stuff that we can clean up for sure and we'll continue to do so."

Behind Mulder and Curry who drained seven and six 3-pointers respectively, Golden State’s shooting from deep proved to be the most detrimental to the Thunder as the Warriors shot 40 percent from deep overall and sank 19 triples.

Matchup Focus

Even though the Thunder took care of the ball with a low 10 turnovers, Golden State registered 15 fast-break points. Missed shots for the Thunder turned into run-out chances for the Warriors, who hold the second fastest pace in the league with 102.2 possessions per game. Going into Saturday’s matchup, a key focus for the Thunder will be sprinting back in transition and ensuring the Warriors are playing against a set, 5-man shell defense.

“The thing that really hurt us was transition because they had some run outs on us where it was too easy,” said Daigneault.

Stat to Watch

Turnovers – In an example of improvement throughout the season, the Thunder ball security has taken strides forward in the month of May. After averaging a league-high 30 turnovers per contest throughout April, the Thunder have only averaged 12 per night so far in May which ranks sixth-lowest in the league. On Thursday, the Thunder recorded just 10 turnovers for the second consecutive game which point guard Ty Jerome attributes to, “just simplifying the game.”

Thunder Trend

On Thursday, The Thunder’s second unit once again provided a massive lift in offense behind the shot-making of Jerome. By the end of the night, the bench recorded 45 points which marked the fourth consecutive game where OKC’s reserves have scored 45 or more points. Over the past four weeks, the Thunder’s bench has ranked fifth in total points and assists while sitting at third in total 3-pointers made.

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