On Sunday the Thunder take on the Milwaukee Bucks, their first true title contending opponent of the season. So far OKC has played teams that are struggling and not playing up to their preseason standards.
The Bucks are the first real measuring stick test this year.
Oklahoma City has so far led the league in field goal against this season, though the San Antonio Spurs shot a few holes through that defense last night. Still, the Thunder have proven to be a scrappy group and have kept four of their five losses to under ten points.
A lot of people, myself included, did not see the Thunder being this competitive early on. I knew we would see some growth throughout the year and so far we’re seeing growth in some form game after game.
This could be attributed to having guys like Chris Paul, Steven Adams, and Danilo Gallinari on the bench. Both of those guys have been deep into the playoffs multiple times. They’ve seen the wars, they know the battles, they know what it takes to improve.
Guys like Darius Bazley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are definitely eating up the knowledge. They have a lot of raw, physical gifts, and now they are learning to play basketball at an NBA level.
Why is this game so important?
How much does scrap does this team have? In years past this would have been a barometer of how close to championship contention the Thunder were. This year it’s a measure of where they could be and where they are going.
Giannis and the Bucks have been straight slaying people in their wins this year.
The Bucks lead the league in scoring (122.3 ppg). The Bucks lead the league in rebounding (51.9 rpg). They are top ten in assists. They are 20th (111.3 opg) in points allowed while the Thunder give up the 6th least (103.3 opg). The Thunder’s total did go up last night with the Spurs scoring 121 last night.
As I stated above this is the first game that Thunder are going against a true elite team in the NBA with championship aspirations. This also starts a stretch of games against the 76ers, Clippers, and Lakers over the next ten or so days.
Outside of Paul, Adams, and Gallo the Thunder roster is filled with a ton of young guys, a lot with less than three years experience. Confidence goes a long way with the young guys. You want to see how Shai, Bazley, Hamidou Diallo, and Terrance Ferguson handle this type of adversity.
Will they quit when the Bucks go on a big run or are they going to continue to scrap?
So far I haven’t seen any quit in these guys. They will scrap and claw to stay in the game. They might night be as talented as the Bucks, but they’ve hung around some teams that on paper are more talented.
Who guards Giannis?
I think it’s safe to say that Gallo is not going to be getting this match up. Chris Paul is going to take Eric Bledsoe I’d imagine. Steven Adams sure as hell is not going to be the one to take this matchup, he’s going to have enough issues tracking Brook Lopez.
That leaves Shai and Ferg. The other will have to deal with Khris Middleton.
Ferg has the strength to deal with Giannis, but Shai is a bit longer.
Maybe it will be a combo of each and then when one of them gets into foul trouble (and they will) Diallo will get a crack at it.
Sharing the ball
After having Russell Westbrook running point and getting over 10 assists a night for the Thunder, you get used to some things. The past is no longer the present. OKC used to be near the top of the league in assists every year.
Now we are in the age of iso offense. The Thunder are an injured pedestrian 29th in the league in assists, coming in less than 20 a night.
The Bucks aren’t that great defensively and will chase the ball around. The Clippers came close to beating them the other night without Kawhi Leonard by keeping them on their heels.
There are still plenty of great tickets available for this game. In years past Chesapeake would have been filled to the brim and loud, so loud Dallas to Omaha would think a tornado was on the horizon.
Get your tickets and head on out to the game this weekend. Take your mom, take a friend, take a puppy. Okay, maybe don’t take a puppy, but let’s get the arena full.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
When: Sunday, November 10th, 2019 at 6 p.m. CT
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