Start time - 7:30 p.m. (CT)
Broadcaster - Bally Sports Oklahoma
The Thunder cross over the state border tonight and play against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks come into this game off the back of an embarrassing loss to the Orlando Magic. Oklahoma City play Dallas after winning their first game in a little over next weeks.
The Thunder were able to beat the Blazers comfortably on Monday night behind strong team defense and balanced scoring. The Thunder trailed by 12 points going into the first half but the team’s performance levels improved after the interval and OKC were able to put the game away.
It was an encouraging performance and a good response to the loss of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Josh Giddey ably stepped into the role of lead creator for the starting lineup. Giddey’s passing was mature and he played with a sense of aggression that we need to see more of.
Giddey scored 14 points on just five makes from the field. Giddey’s scoring efficiency was bolstered by four made free throws. Getting to the line is such an important part of a modern scorer’s arsenal; the free throw is the easiest shot in basketball. It was good to see Josh embracing contact and earning foul shots.
His aggression was not limited to scoring; Giddey hounded the boards, finishing the night with 12 rebounds. Giddey notched another double-double and set the Thunder rookie record for the number of double-doubles recorded during the season.
Giddey is an elite rebounder and his skill has been imperative in the Thunder closing out possessions on the less glamorous end of the floor. Oklahoma City are ranked 5th in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game despite lacking a traditional big.
Everybody pitches in on this Thunder team but Giddey’s contribution are impressive. His work on glass restricts the number of second chance points that the Thunder allow while also benefitting the Thunder’s transition offense. Giddey is an excellent outlet passer and finds his teammates at will in the open court.
We also saw strong performances from Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley. Dort’s level of play has slipped over the last month but his game on Monday night was a return to form. Dort hounded Anfernee Simons and did not allow the young guard to have another red-hot scoring night.
Darius Bazley is someone who I have criticised in the past for drifting through games but he certainly made an impact the other day. Bazley had 15 points on the night but it was his steadiness across the 48 minutes that impressed me. Bazley did not run hot and cold as he would usually do, he was a reliable option for the Thunder when the team needed him.
On the other hand, the Dallas Mavericks are currently working through their own issues. The Mavericks will not have Kristaps Porzingis or Tim Hardaway Jr available for tonight’s game. Porzingis and THJ provide valuable scoring support around Luka Doncic. Their absence will mean that there is greater responsibility placed on Luka’s shoulders.
There is a little uncertainty surrounding the Mavericks’ roster at the moment. Jalen Brunson was taken by Dallas four years ago in the 2018 Draft off the back of winning the NCAA Tournament with Villanova. It was a great pick at the time and it seemed like the Mavericks had found their back-up point guard of the future.
Brunson has continued to improve his game year after year and has almost priced himself out of the Mavericks’ free agency plans. Brunson hits free agency this summer as an unrestricted free agent and will likely command sizeable offers.
He has matured into being a very good floor general who can comfortably run an offense and keep his teammates engaged in the game. At the moment, he is averaging 15 points and 5 assists per game on a team where Luka Doncic handles the ball a lot. It is very likely that Brunson’s statistical output and impact on the game will only increase with a bigger role in the offense.
For Dallas, they may decide that Brunson is too rich for their blood and move him at the deadline for an asset instead of losing Jalen for nothing in free agency. Uncertainty regarding a player’s spot on the roster will always affect chemistry.
The Thunder should be able to play quite competitively tonight and may even sneak a win over the line if Giddey puts together another impressive performance.