2 main factors that will lead to Thunder winning Game 2 vs Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers
Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers / Alika Jenner/GettyImages
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Increase Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s shot quality

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander candidate poured in 28 points, but the MVP candidate had to work for every shot. New Orleans did an excellent job of blocking his spots and forcing him into uncomfortable shots all game. 

For example, when SGA had the ball at the top of the key New Orleans frequently slid two wing defenders toward him in order to build a wall and show three obstacles.

As a result, SGA struggled to find driving lanes and attack north to south. Given New Orleans’ length, a skip pass was often a risky option because they could potentially get the steal. 

It may benefit the Thunder to initially have SGA off-ball before running a play in order to get him a more advantageous position. In theory, the Thunder could run a dribble handoff and take advantage of his flexibility and knack for taking sharp angles around corners.

It would leave Herb Jones as a chaser instead of an obstacle, thus reducing New Orleans’ ability to prevent SGA from penetrating the paint. 

The action also allows Holmgren to either pop, roll, or fake the handoff and drive to the hoop past the slower Valanciunas.

Essentially, the versatility of the action prevents the Pelicans from finding a permanent counter.

Although floppy is typically utilized to create a clean look for a shooter, SGA would be able to get to his spots far easier off the catch as opposed to walking into a wall from the top of the key. Plus, it forces New Orleans to defend laterally at a higher rate, which is how the Thunder superstar can force mistakes and worm his way to the rim. 

Overall, Oklahoma City needs a quality scoring series from Gilgeous-Alexander to prevail, so the Thunder must figure out how to place him in a position to succeed.