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November 9: Oklahoma City Thunder vs Golden State Warriors — a preview and gamethread

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The Thunder will be looking to get an easy victory before the start of a tricky run of games

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs
Suga Shai Getting to the Bucket
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder meet Golden State at the ‘Peake’ on the first night of a back to back. The game against the Warriors starts at 8:30 (EST) and is a match-up between two former Western Conference heavyweights. The Thunder’s games against the Warriors used to be appointment viewing but now the fixtures are a little more low-key. Both teams are in a rebuilding phase where youth development is top of the agenda. The Thunder will be looking to get a quick victory against the Warriors before facing off against the Milwaukee Bucks, a definite NBA Finals contender this season. The Warriors will be looking to rebound after a difficult overtime loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Noted Thunder Killer Andrew Wiggins scored forty points to eventually put away a young, inexperienced Warriors side.

Three Points to Note for the Thunder:

  1. The Thunder’s point differential indicates that the early season results are not reflective of the team’s play. The Thunder currently have a positive point differential of +2.0 which would mean that the Thunder is 14th in the league according to NBAStats. This suggests the Thunder will eventually move closer to the mean and start winning tight games. This number is also pretty interesting as it ranks the Thunder ahead of Western Conference teams who have a better record. Both Minnesota and Houston have negative point differential despite going 5-3 on the season so far. The natural assertion drawn from the numbers is the Thunder are better as a team than fans anticipated before the season started.
  2. In the last game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Thunder seemed to run a lot of offence through the front-court. Steven Adams had three assists out of dribble hand-off situations and looked to be comfortable in that play-making role. This is a clever offensive wrinkle added by the coaching staff as it spaces the floor despite neither Nerlens Noel or Steven Adams being proficient from distance. There is more room inside for guards to work, for a player like Shai Gilgeous Alexander who thrives off the drive, this can only be a positive. The other benefit of running more sets was explained by Nerlens Noel during the post-game scrum following the Spurs’ game. Noel stated that offence going through the centre “keeps the big man engaged” meaning that the team’s energy levels remain high. No one player feels isolated and is drifting through the game listlessly.
  3. Danilo Gallinari has been hugely efficient for the Thunder since he was acquired in the Paul George trade but it does feel like there are layers within his game that the Thunder are not maximising. Gallinari is a capable shot creator when given the opportunity and he has rarely been used in this manner for the Thunder. The coaching staff have made a point of running the offence through its guards which has limited Gallo’s time on the ball. For the Clippers last season, Gallinari was a competent ball-handler who could drive into the lane and draw fouls off over-zealous defence. For a highly efficient free throw shooter like Gallinari, foul shots are free points. It could be wise for the coaching staff to have Gallinari draw contact more than he is doing right now. At present, Gallinari is averaging 4.3 FTA per game which is 1.7 FTA less than last season. If the coaching staff can get Gallinari to take more than six throws a game, the offence will obviously be more efficient. It will also mean that the Thunder will have a decent amount of free points in their back-pocket when the game gets tight down the stretch.

Warriors’ Whispers:

  1. The Warriors are effectively tanking this season with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry out for extended periods of time. There have also been injury issues for Draymond Green which are likely accumulations from a fatiguing five-year run where the Warriors played roughly eighty games more than the rest of the NBA. The Warriors have relied heavily on their young players and there has been one stand-out player from this group. Eric Paschall was picked in the second round of the 2019 Draft as a college senior out of Vilanova. Paschall was touted by scouts for his intelligence and versatility on the defensive end. However, it has been his scoring which has been impressive since the season started. Paschall is averaging 17.0 points per game on a true shooting percentage of 66%. He has been effective at using his frame to bully his way inside and get easy buckets.
  2. D’Angelo Russell had a career high of 52 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves and he started to look like the player who made All-Star for the first time last season. At the start of his Warriors’ tenure, Russell struggled to adapt to the motion offence which Kerr has ran since he took over from Mark Jackson. Russell had none of those issues last night as he single-handedly kept an abject Warriors’ offence alive. Russell needs Steve Kerr to move away from his offensive system so that he can be truly effective. Russell is an excellent pick and roll player and the Warriors would do well to take advantage of D’Lo’s talent in the two man game.

Random Sidenote:

The adjustments made by the Thunder to their kits this season have been effective. The changes made by the Thunder and Nike have only been subtle but the uniforms pop more on a television broadcast. The orange lining on the jerseys looks incredible and provides some contrast to the primary colour of the Thunder Blue uniform. I think Nike have done an exceptional job on the unis. The grey jersey designed to commemorate those lost in the Oklahoma Bombings is a personal favourite. From a purely aesthetic stand-point, it looks totally unique to any other jersey that I can think of. When the sentiment and history behind the uniform is considered, it becomes incredibly special.

Thunder Up

Personal Note:

This is the first piece that I have written as a writer for ‘Welcome To Loud City’ and I am proud to join such a talented group of writers. I have been reading this site since I started following the Thunder in 2016 and it has always been first in my reading list when it came to Thunder news, debate or opinion. Over the years, I have come to love this little community of ours and when I had the opportunity to become a writer at ‘WTLC’ it was a no-brainer. I am excited to write about the Thunder this season as it is a group of talented young guys who will play hard every night and develop as the season goes on.

I am the writer formerly known as DK429 and I have been writing about basketball for a few years. I have always had a passion for journalism and I love basketball so it felt like a natural progression for me to start writing about basketball.