Start time: 9 p.m. (CT)
Broadcasters: Bally Sports Oklahoma and NBA League Pass
In the last game that the Thunder played, Oklahoma City lost a close game to the Sacramento Kings. The Kings maintained a comfortable lead for long periods of the game but the Thunder were able to close the deficit in the fourth quarter and make the game close.
However, Sacramento were able to grind out the win and the Thunder added another loss to the record. The loss on Tuesday meant that Oklahoma City were able to stay in the top-five of the draft lottery.
The Golden State Warriors will present a different challenge for the Thunder. Golden State are battling to earn a chance at postseason basketball. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are using every fibre of their being to drag the Warriors to the playoffs.
Three Points to Note for the Thunder:
Since Darius Bazley returned from his shoulder injury, he has been assertive and aggressive with the ball in his hands. Bazley is getting himself involved on every single possession and the results have been pretty positive for the Thunder. Darius has answered the question relating to his ability to operate as a primary option.
Over the last five or six games, Bazley has shown that he is comfortable running the offense. Bazley’s recent play contrasts greatly with his performances before All-Star break. In the first half of the season, Darius seemed to drift through games instead of trusting himself to create shots for himself or his teammates.
Bazley has grown as a creator in the last few games. Darius has become much better at using his acceleration to get past defenders. Bazley has been an impressive finisher at the rim this season (64.3% on all looks within 3ft) and his inside scoring has only increased over the last few games.
However, Darius Bazley still has room for improvement as a scorer. Darius’ shot profile is a little too reliant on his outside shot which is not the most efficient shot in his arsenal. At the moment, he is only taking 32.1% of his looks at the rim. I would like to say Darius get to the rim more and challenge the defense.
Gabriel Deck has proven to be a solid, reliable contributor for the Thunder in his short tenure with the team. Deck has only played four games and already looks to be an astute signing by Sam Presti. In his last game against the Kings, Deck scored 16 points off the bench while notching three assists.
I expected Deck to have a difficult transition to the NBA. He played in Europe for a lot of time and the adaptation to the fast-paced, frenetic game that is played in the NBA can be troublesome. However, Deck seems to be comfortable with the NBA game and does not look to be out of place.
Deck came with the reputation of being a quality low-post passer and he has shown this ability in the NBA. When he played for Real Madrid Baloncesto, Pablo Laso often had Gabriel Deck playmaking from the block. Coach Mark Daigneault has put Gabriel in the same sort of spots and has adjusted the offense to get Gabriel post-ups.
The post-up is not generally an efficient shot for most NBA players but Deck has proven to be a useful option. Gabriel is hard to guard down low due to his versatility. He is a polished, steady passer who is able to find cutters with ease. Defenses cannot afford to play one pass away on the strong-side as Deck will hurt the opposing team with his passing.
Moreover, Gabriel can create shots for himself and place pressure on the defense. Deck smartly uses his size and touch to gain separation for a finish or a fadeaway jumper. He can create uncertainty for the opposing team and that is always valuable for the Thunder.
Deck’s play has not been perfect; he has had a few issues on the defensive end of the floor. There have been a few times when Gabriel has been caught being too aggressive as a help defender. In the EuroLeague, the courts are narrow and it is easier for the defensive player to close out on perimeter shooters.
Close outs are harder in the NBA as the defensive player has more ground to cover in order to contest a shot effectively. At the moment, Deck is positioning himself a step too far away from the corner. He is still able to run out at the shooter but his contest is not controlled due to the fact that he is focused on closing the distance rather than playing effective defense.
Theo Maledon has been a constant in the Thunder’s rotation this season. Maledon has played pretty much every single minute this season and he has played quite a few different roles for the Thunder. Theo was predominantly used as a secondary playmaker in lineups next to George Hill or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He is now the starting point guard for the Thunder.
Despite the different responsibilities, Maledon’s effectiveness from downtown remains unchanged. In the game against Phoenix, Theo broke the record for 3-point makes for the Thunder. Theo has made 97 3-pointers this season; the previous record belonged to Alex Abrines.
Maledon is currently taking 4.7 3PA per game but I feel that he could be even more aggressive from downtown. Occasionally, Theo can become too focused on setting up shots for teammates which means that his own offense is neglected.
I appreciate Theo’s preference for getting his teammates involved but it is important for him to remain active as a shot-maker. When Maledon is draining shots from deep, the offense is spaced more effectively and there is more space inside for someone like Darius Bazley or Luguentz Dort to work.
Curry vs Beal:
At this moment in time, Stephen Curry and Bradley Beal are battling to earn the NBA scoring title. Curry is currently averaging 31.5 points per game and it is increasingly likely that Stephen Curry will finish the season as the scoring leader. Bradley Beal is averaging 30.9 points per game but the emergence of Rui Hachimura as a scoring option has started to limit his output.
Curry’s scoring has been crucial to the Warriors’ offensive efficiency this season. Golden State’s offense has been putrid whenever Stephen Curry sits. The most important part of Stephen Curry’s scoring is the floor spacing that he provides. Curry is shooting 42% on 12.4 3-point attempts this season.
Curry’s gravity as a shooter unlocks the Warriors’ offense. The defense have to double and triple Curry to have any chance at slowing the former MVP down. His shooting opens up the 4v3 possessions that Draymond Green excels on.
Lack of Depth:
Golden State have been running an 8-man rotation in the last few weeks. Injuries to Damion Lee and Eric Paschall have meant that Curry, Green and Andrew Wiggins have logged heavy minutes. It would not surprise me to see the Warriors looking fatigued tonight.
Rim & 3 Rates— ShotQuality (@Shot_Quality) May 1, 2021
Percentage of shot attempts that are either at the rim or a 3 pointer! pic.twitter.com/S1GsKPaIlL
The Thunder have been one of the most efficient teams this season in terms of shot profile. Oklahoma City have been focused on getting threes and layups. Coach Mark has done a really good job at coaching the Thunder to avoid inefficient shots.