The sixth-seeded OKC Thunder took care of business with their fourth win in a row courtesy of dispatching the PIstons. Three takeaways offer insights.
After playing more games in January than any of their counterparts the OKC Thunder needed a mini break and got that over last weekend prior to their games in week 16 on Wednesday, Friday and the impending match today (Sunday).
Although, the Thunder appeared somewhat refreshed they seemed a little out of sync in both the Cavaliers and Pistons games.
In fairness, imagine the emotional toll of getting through the trade deadline not sure what event(s) might occur to affect either your own personal voyage or that of a teammate. Think of how much time the club spends together. It’s easy to extrapolate this situation is very much like rallying around a family member waiting to hear either good or bad news.
The other factor is while the OKC Thunder has feasted since Thanksgiving, for the most part, they are still a very young squad. With that, they are still learning to ditch bad habits and adopt new ones like not underestimating lower-tier competition or short-handed clubs.
In both cases (Cavs and Pistons) OKC got the win, but it didn’t come without Chris Paul needing to reel the team in a bit to keep them focused on the task.
However, there were three takeaways that stood out in the victory over the Pistons.
Still room for big men in this current era:
Although Daryl Morey would have you believe differently the match versus the Detroit Pistons proved just how vital a big man (or absence of one) can affect a game.
Steven Adams‘ sheer size was an issue for the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons had no answer to stop him offensively. More importantly, Adams’ ability to clean the glass, set a body jarring screen or protect the paint can’t be discounted.
Although clubs like the new look Houston Rockets will push the pace and focus on the perimeter that can only take a club so far. Sure, they’ll be games where that strategy works if a team gets extremely hot from the perimeter. But how often are teams able to sustain that type of shooting over 48 minutes? Particularly if the opponent is adept at perimeter defense.
Furthermore, once the postseason hits inevitably teams will force their opponents into half court sets. While deflections and rebounds will still be examined for fast break opportunities the ability to work in both systems is critical. Having a big man adept at functioning in both systems behooves a club and typically winning teams (read: champions) have a few big men they can rely on.
Speaking of the perimeter:
The win over the Pistons showcased solid perimeter defense from the OKC Thunder. The Pistons shot 11 of 39 or 28.9 percent.
Even with the Pistons playing short handed and having tweaked their roster the majority of their most efficient 3-point shooters played in the match. Detroit ranks in the top five of teams who shoot the 3-ball efficiently:
- Jazz: 38.6%
- Heat: 37.8%
- Raptors: 37.6%
- Pelicans: 37.2%
- Pistons: 37.1%
This wasn’t an outlier performance from the OKC Thunder who rank among the top five on the season in perimeter defense. Those five crews are:
- Heat – 33.4%
- Raptors – 33.8%
- Nuggets – 33.8%
- Thunder – 34.3%
- Jazz – 34.3%
In a league that places so much emphasis on space and pace the ability to shut down the opposition from behind the arc is a huge asset to hold in your pocket.
Depth breeds roster competition:
Terrance Ferguson has dealt with off court issues this season. The franchise is being supportive so he can take the required time he needs to deal with the situation. That’s a great principle for a franchise to set.
More from Thunderous Intentions
- OKC Thunder: Which players are hurt most by the prolonged layoff?
- OKC Thunder forward Gallinari philanthropy, positive tested players fully recovered
- OKC Thunder: Darius Bazley season highlight features dunk on Embiid
- OKC Thunder: Which player will benefit most from the extended layoff
- OKC Thunder: Stephon Marbury earns his nickname via charitable gesture
But, it’s also a good principle to set that his absence just like an injury absence creates an opportunity for another (or others) to fill his shoes – next man up if you will.
Luguentz Dort did precisely that by fulfilling TFerg’s starting role so adequately, to this point Billy Donovan hasn’t seen a need to extract him. To wit, the OKC Thunder are 9-1 since Lu Dort became a starter.
For his part, TFerg returned to the team and is bringing his energy off the bench stepping up however necessary to help his court mates.
Meanwhile, players like Hamidou Diallo, Abdel Nader, and Deonte Burton aren’t getting the same run. Part of that could be due to them not making the most of those chances when they occur. Or it could be tied to off-court situations. Do they deliver in practice sessions and put in the work to help improve the entire team while also working on individual goals?
Ultimately, this is a great practice and is often how the best teams develop their depth. A look at the Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat, and Toronto Raptors are great examples of this. Undoubtedly, this new practice will reap rewards down the road.
Sunday afternoon the OKC Thunder faces a difficult test playing the Boston Celtics. Check back for the preview of the match.