Start time: 7 p.m. (CT)
Broadcasters: Fox Sports Oklahoma and NBA League Pass
In the last three games, the Thunder have played well against but have lost all of them. In each of those games, Oklahoma City has been unable to protect a big first-quarter lead against more talented, deeper opponents.
Milwaukee comes into this game on the back of a loss to the Utah Jazz. The Bucks are the latest team to be torn apart by the Jazz’s slick, precise ball movement.
Despite this loss, the Bucks have looked imperious this season; the addition of Jrue Holiday has added a sense of stability and control to Milwaukee.
Three Points to Note for the Thunder:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Theo Maledon, and George Hill will be unavailable for tonight’s game against the Bucks.
The Thunder will likely continue with Hamidou Diallo starting at the point. These absences obviously hurt the Thunder’s ability to win games but accumulating losses is beneficial in the long run.
A bad, losing record will result in a high draft pick and another young, cost-controlled player who can improve the Thunder’s chances down the line.
Cade Cunningham and Jalen Suggs look to be special players and the sort of player who can change the prospects of a team. In the last few days, Jonathan Kuminga has emerged as a top-tier, blue-chip draft target.
Hamidou Diallo’s first two seasons in the league were distinctly unremarkable. Diallo displayed ridiculous feats of athleticism but his game was wildly unrefined.
I have to say, I did not believe that Diallo would find the ability to marry his physical goods with game intelligence. There were simply too many rash drives and ill-advised mid-range jumpers for my liking.
This season has been totally different and we have seen Hamidou Diallo mature into being a reliable, dependable scorer off the bench. Diallo’s raw athleticism has been tamed and he is starting to find good looks at the rim with regularity.
Diallo is almost impossible to stop when he is driving to the basket; Hamidou is maximizing that athleticism by timing his drives more precisely.
Diallo’s playmaking has also grown considerably over the course of the last few weeks. Injuries to Shai, Theo, and George Hill has meant that the ball has landed in Diallo’s hands a lot more. The role of primary playmaker is totally new to Hamidou Diallo and yet he had flourished in this role.
He has been very good at making the right read on offense and he has displayed moments of real quality with his passing.
Hamidou has developed this short, sharp under-hand toss that has been very effective at beating the defense and getting his teammates good looks. The key takeaway from the last five games is that Diallo has looked comfortable running the offense.
The game has slowed down for Hamidou and the ugly traits that defined his game have largely been ironed out.
Diallo is playing with more poise and he is focused on maximizing his strengths. He still has flaws, the mid-ranger has not gone away yet, but Diallo has limited these inefficient moments.
Before the start of the season, I had my doubts about Coach Mark Daigneault and his ability to be fluid tactically.
One of the key issues of the Billy Donovan era was a lack of flexibility when it came to X's and O’s. It seemed fairly likely that Daigneault would have a similar weakness given the fact that he comes from the Donovan coaching tree.
However, those concerns have largely been put to bed over the last three weeks. Coach Mark has shown tactical acumen and a willingness to get creative with his offense during a period of time when the Thunder have struggled with injuries.
Over the last three games, he has not had a point guard on the roster, and still, the Thunder have pushed contending teams all the way.
Players have improved under Daigneault; the Thunder are getting excellent performances out of Kenrich Williams and Diallo at the moment.
However, player improvement is not the sole reason for the Thunder remaining competitive. Daigneault’s decision to shift the offense from a driving game to a hand-off oriented offense has paid dividends.
The Thunder have found a lot of creative juice by making Al Horford a focal point of the offense. Horford is a considered, smart passer from the center position.
Coach Mark’s tactical tweak has maximized this proficiency. Horford has totaled 11 assists over the last two games and Oklahoma City’s offense has not struggled hugely.
The ability to remain competitive despite injuries, a fluid rotation, and a lot of turnovers is an example of Daigneault’s ability.
The Thunder may have found a coach for the long term in Daigneault; the importance of continuity in the coaching setup cannot be understated.
Jrue Holiday is out for the Bucks due to a positive COVID test last week. Holiday’s offensive contributions will be sorely missed by coach Mike Budenholzer. Holiday has already missed two games due to the positive test.
Above the Break Threes:
During his tenure in Milwaukee, Budenholzer has run a scheme on defense that prioritizes packing the paint and denying interior looks.
Milwaukee’s defense has been excellent over the last three years but this scheme has one glaring weakness; Milwaukee gives up too many uncontested above the break threes.
The Thunder will struggle to find looks inside so it will be very important to convert on deep shots. It will be a wise idea for Daigneault to deploy Horford and Mike Muscala as trailers in transition.
The Thunder will struggle to win this game if they cannot get rolling from downtown.