What to watch for in OKC Thunder’s exciting home opener vs Champs

Luguentz Dort #5, Jalen Williams #8, Chet Holmgren #7 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Luguentz Dort #5, Jalen Williams #8, Chet Holmgren #7 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

You never forget your first impression of someone or something. The OKC Thunder have gotten off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2016 and have yet to play a home game. On Sunday afternoon, not only will this young Thunder squad have a chance to make a lasting first impression on the Bricktown faithful, but the fans can make an impression on these Thunder players.

With one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, the OKC Thunder players from top to bottom have played very few “meaningful” games in Bricktown, where the fanbase is buzzing and into the contests. That hype has reached a fever pitch following Friday’s come-from-behind win over Cleveland.

A once proud fanbase that generated the best and one of the few genuine home-court advantages in the NBA has a chance on Sunday to make a statement. A first impression that basketball in Bricktown is back and reclaim the right to be dubbed “Loud City.”

OKC Thunder take on the NBA Champions in their home opener on Sunday afternoon; what to watch for.

On Sunday afternoon, the OKC Thunder will play host to the NBA Champion Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are bringing all their stars, from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon. The Thunder will have their full array of young rising stars healthy, only missing Kenrich Williams (Back) and Jaylin Williams (Hamstring) on the latest Injury report.

What to watch for: 

Chet Holmgren vs Nikola Jokic: 

The OKC Thunder selected Chet Holmgren 2nd overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. Since that fateful June night in 2022, the NBA world has wondered if Chet Holmgren could play, or even “survive,” as a center in the association.

While those people ponder if Chet Holmgren can man the middle, the OKC Thunder have firmly believed the Gonzaga product is a center. They have played him there exclusively so far in the NBA.

On Sunday, Holmgren will face his most challenging task yet, going up against Nikola Jokic. This is more of a watch for how he handles the matchup versus who wins the matchup. No one can stop the two-time League MVP and Champion. That would be an unfair bar, but this is a good baseline for where Holmgren stacks up against the best big in the NBA.

As a side note, with a 2:30 tip-off, there are typically some “Sleepwalkers,” and Nikola Jokic fits the bill as a player who might not exactly get up for playing a Sunday matinee in Oklahoma City.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander vs Jamal Murray: 

We are treated to dueling guards who can fill it up for back-to-back games. Watching a fully healthy Jamal Murray battle it out with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be fun as the two will likely trade bucket blows down the stretch of this game at the Paycom Center.

As another side note, Lu Dort has fared well against Murray, so this is a chess match in the making. Given how switchable the Thunder are defensively, there are not many targets to pick on, so for the majority of the game, Murray will just be tasked with getting past Dort.

The Bounce back: 

Lost in the shuffle of the Cleveland classic was the fact Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and Isaiah Joe were abnormally inefficient in scoring the ball. While the trio impacted the game in other ways, which led to the Thunder comeback win, and in Jalen Williams’ case, he even turned it on in the fourth quarter in the scoring department, they did not have the games they wanted to individually.

How do they respond in an emotional home opener against the incredible reigning champs who can match the Thunder exceptionally well in the switch-ability and length category.

For complete coverage of this game and all season long, make sure to check back to Thunderous Intentions daily. 

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