Start time: 7 p.m. (CT)
Broadcasters: Fox Sports Oklahoma and NBA League Pass
On Wednesday night, the Thunder picked up a win against the injury-ravaged San Antonio Spurs. Luguentz Dort received the ball in the corner and calmly drained a three to win the game as the clock expired. It is a ‘feel good’ win for the Thunder and it is the sort of result that builds the team’s collective spirit.
The Hawks have been quite inconsistent this season but they come in tonight’s game on the back of a resounding victory against the Boston Celtics. The Hawks were professional in the way that they dispatched the reeling Celtics with very little fuss. Trae Young and Danilo Gallinari could not be stopped.
Three Points to Note for the Thunder:
Shai’s Career High:
On Tuesday night, the All-Star reserves were announced and Shai’s absence was pretty conspicuous. Gilgeous-Alexander was even left off the All-Star snubs list by Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Notable All-Star reserve snubs: Atlanta's Trae Young, Phoenix's Devin Booker, Philadelphia's Tobias Harris, San Antonio's DeMar DeRozan. The West squad will receive a replacement player should Anthony Davis miss the All-Star Game. https://t.co/W76iIoCOQb— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 23, 2021
In the words of Michael Jordan, Shai took it personal and delivered the best performance of his career against the San Antonio Spurs. Shai dropped 42 points on 13 makes while also accumulating 8 rebounds and 4 assists. He delivered an All-Star level performance and was the best player on the court by far.
Gilgeous-Alexander is a reliable scorer, you can always trust him to get to 20 points but he seems to have found another gear in his game. Shai has been getting to the line a lot more in the last five games; he is averaging 9.2 FTA over this stretch. By shooting from the stripe regularly, Shai’s nightly point totals are steadily increasing without any real decline in efficiency from the floor.
Luguentz Dort’s Big 4th Quarter:
Dort is another player who has grown in confidence as the season has gone. He knocked down the first game winner of his career against San Antonio but it was his demeanour that stood out to me. Dort was cool, calm and present in those closing moments of the game, it was a far cry from his body language at the end of Game 7 against the Houston Rockets.
In those final minutes of the first round, Dort did not look comfortable with the weight of pressure. Those nerves and indecision meant that Dort did not play to his full capabilities at the end of that game. Harden was able to swoop in for a block and snatched the win for Houston.
Coach Mark did not draw up the final possession of the game for Dort; the initial aim of the possession was to generate a look for Horford or Shai. The Spurs’ convergence on the two-man game prompted Horford to swing the ball to a wide open Dort in the weak-side corner. The deviation from the plan did not bother Dort and he assuredly knocked down the three.
Dort is a gamer, he is unafraid of the pressure moments. He had three very important 3-point makes in the fourth quarter that kept the Thunder in the game. That Houston series has been so important in developing Lu’s confidence in himself.
In a press conference yesterday, Coach Mark Daigneault revealed that Diallo has groin soreness and will miss the next two games. Coach Mark also stated that it is possible that Diallo will sit out until the All-Star break.
The Thunder have been cautious with players returning from injury and this approach makes plenty of sense. Oklahoma City are not playing for anything this season and taking the slow road with injuries will hopefully prevent the chance of reoccurring injuries down the line.
Danilo Gallinari became a fan favourite in Oklahoma City last season. Fans fell in love with Gallinari’s smooth, silky shooting motion and his ability to get white hot for entire quarters. Gallinari had one of those games against the Celtics the other night; Danilo dropped 38 points on 10-for-12 3PA.
There is still a lot of love for Gallinari in OKC. In the press conference, Coach Mark and Mike Muscala both spoke glowingly about Gallo’s skill as a player. There was also an interesting story about the shooting games that Gallo, Mike and Abdel Nader used to play in practice every single day.
Mark Daigneault says that Danilo Gallinari would beat Mike Muscala during their shooting games last season, mentions he beat him one time shoeless.— Clemente Almanza (@CAlmanza1007) February 25, 2021
Trae Young will return to his home state tonight and he will have a difficult challenge in front of him. Luguentz Dort is one of the league’s premier defenders and will relish the chance of taking on Trae.
Ty Jerome has been called up from the G-League. The injury to Diallo means that the Thunder need another guard which is why Jerome will be returning from Florida. It will be interesting to see how Jerome plays at the NBA level and what skills he brings to the second unit.