The OKC Thunder will play a three-game gauntlet stretch this week, starting tonight in Minnesota. While Chet Holmgren returns to his hometown and the Thunder get Jalen Williams back in the fold, this tilt with the Timberwolves will still be challenging.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will be without a key piece in their lineup, Jaden McDaniels, who is nursing an ankle sprain. The Los Angeles Lakers will be on the back side of a road road back-to-back, and the Dallas Mavericks are currently down their rookie big man Dereck Lively II (back), but there is a long way til Saturday.
The OKC Thunder will face a tough stretch and learn a lot about their team this week.
Depending on how the Lakers manage their rest, given that the front leg of this back-to-back set sees them battling the lowly Detroit Pistons, this week could spell trouble for this young OKC Thunder squad.
The Minnesota Timberwolves currently sit at 12-4, the best record in the West, protecting home court to the tune of a 7-1 record in the Target Center. Last season, the Wolves were able to impose their will on the OKC Thunder, ousting them from the NBA Play-In tournament in dominating fashion. Can Chet Holmgren prove to be the difference in this matchup?
On Thursday, the OKC Thunder welcome in the L.A. Lakers to the Paycom Center, who are 7-3 in their last ten games but project to be 11-8 when they come into Bricktown, presuming they take care of the lowly Pistons.
Given that the Pistons are the front end of the back-to-back, it seems likely that Darvin Ham’s team will rest against Detroit or just play both sides of the back-to-back. Matching up against LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be a tall task for the Thunder, who saw some success against the Purple and Gold last season.
They end the week with the trouble of facing a smaller lineup in Dallas; after starting the week against the Jumbo Wolves, the perimeter defense from Oklahoma City has to be on point against Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.
The saving grace for the OKC Thunder will be that the Mavericks might have the worst defensive roster of contending teams in the entire NBA. When they play the Pacers, it could break NBA records.
If the young Thunder can capitalize on that, clamping down on defense and outscoring the Mavs, who can not get a stop, they should come away with a road win. OKC has turned in a 7-1 record away from Paycom Center.
With Jalen Williams back, Oklahoma City starts the week at full health; not a single player is listed on the injury report. It is rare in the NBA to be at full strength, which makes this week even more critical.
If OKC can come away with a 3-1 record, it will further cement their arrival this season. The Thunder have a great shot at landing a top-six seed in the Western Conference this season, and a great week will push them closer to that goal.