Thunder Takes on Wizards in Sunday Matinee
Date: Aug. 9, 2020
Tip-Off Time: 11:30 a.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
OKC will look to bounce back after a disappointing 121-92 loss to the Grizzlies on Friday. Despite jumping out to an early 37-25 lead in the first quarter behind seven made 3-pointers, the Thunder’s offense went cold for the remaining 36 minutes of the game. After going 7-of-13 from behind the arc in the first quarter, the Thunder went 6-of-30 for the next three stanzas.
Memphis took advantage of the low scoring output by the Thunder and found their groove offensively. Led by Dillon Brooks with 22 points, Memphis outscored the Thunder 96-55 in quarters two through three.
For Coach Donovan’s squad, Friday’s game was a lesson in maintaining defensive energy in the face of offensive adversity. Playing without Dennis Schröder (personal reasons), Steven Adams (leg contusion) and Mike Muscala (concussion protocol) wasn’t an excuse for Coach Donovan or the players on the floor. It was about bringing consistent energy and effort for 48 minutes even when the shots aren’t falling.
“We gotta come out and compete. We can’t wait until we get down five or six or something like that to decide that we’re going to play. That starts with me. If we have a lead, if it’s 10 or 15 we’ve gotta be one of those teams to take it to 20 or 25,” said Thunder guard Chris Paul. “I think we’re going to just keep building and know that every team out here is fighting … All of these teams here are going to continue to fight and try to win.”
After a 118-107 loss on Friday, the Wizards were officially eliminated from their run to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Coming into the restart, Washington was the lone team out of the East to qualify for the bubble who wasn’t currently in playoff standings. Now, after dropping their fifth straight game inside the NBA’s campus, the squad has fallen to 8.5 games behind the 8-seed Orlando Magic with only three regular season matches remaining.
The Wizards look like a much different team than the Thunder faced back in its second game of the season on October 25. The team is without its All-Star point guard in Bradley Beal (rotator cuff) who averaged 30.5 points per game for the Wizards and Davis Bertans (opted out of restart), who chipped in 15.5 points per game. The Wizards are now headlined by the young faces of Troy Brown at point guard, Thomas Bryant at center and Rui Hachimura at forward – all of which are 23-years old and younger.
In its last matchup against the Pelicans, Brown, Bryant and Hachimura all scored 20 or more points for the Wizards marking the first time since 2011 where three players 23-years-old or younger scored 20 points for Washington.
Thomas Bryant’s 22 points on Friday was his third straight 20-plus point game in the NBA’s campus. Since the restart began, Bryant has averaged 20 points and nine rebounds and recorded three double-doubles. Keep an eye out for how the Thunder is able to provide the necessary help-side defense to contain Bryant in the paint while also defending and recovering to shooters on the perimeter.
Stat to Watch
3-point percentage – If there is one area where the Thunder has consistently excelled in Orlando, it has been defending the 3-point line. Over the past four games, the Thunder lead the NBA in opponent 3-point percentage allowing just a 25-percent clip on average. Meanwhile, on the offensive end, the Thunder will face a Wizards squad who is 25th in the league in that same area. Look for Coach Donovan’s squad to take advantage of this by playing with pace on offense and moving the ball up the floor with tempo to find the open man.
Thunder rookie guard, Luguentz Dort, played a major role in the Thunder’s hot offensive start on Friday. In the first quarter, Dort drained three 3-pointers on four attempts on the way to an 11-point performance to start the game. By the end of the night, Dort racked up 16 points on 4-of-5 from downtown all while picking up players like Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks full-court on defense.
For the first time in his career, Dort notched his third consecutive game where he scored in double-figures for the Thunder. Over those three games, Dort cashed in a total of 40 points.
“Lu’s been like that all year for us as far as being that engine,” Pau said l. “Now he’s a lot more comfortable with his shot. We need it. Lu has been amazing. To see him flourishing on the offensive end now as well as the defensive end is nice.”