In Saturday’s opener vs. the Charlotte Hornets, the Thunder were barely able to grind out the win, coming via. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 23-foot pullup with just seconds remaining.
Although the Thunder did come out on top, there was still a lot left to be desired from the team as there were multiple areas the team seized to capitalize on.
For those wanting to hear a more in-depth take on the Thunder’s issues in game one, make sure to take a listen to the Thundersticks Podcast episode, recapping Saturday’s game. You can find that here.
For those wanting to hear a more in depth preview of the Thunder’s matchup vs. the Hornets, take a listen to the game preview here.
Without further ado, let’s get into tonight’s key’s to the game.
1) Establishing the Three Ball
The Thunder shot a forgettable 10 of 36 (27.8%) from three in their season opener vs. the Hornets. What makes this number even more intriguing is that they went 6-12 from deep in the 4th quarter alone, meaning they shot 4-24 (16.7%) from three through three quarter.s
It seemed as if players were passing up open looks at the three for drive-ins, with players such as SGA and Dort finding their success inside. It will be much harder to win this game off of working inside as the Hornets were manned with Bismack Biyombo as their center, the Jazz… well they have Rudy Gobert.
Shooting from distance will need to be the gameplan. With the Thunder starters going just 7-21 (33%) from three last game, they will need to step things up to have any say in this game.
2) Interior Defense
With the Utah Jazz well equipped at the center spot, containing them will be a critical part to the game. The Thunder were only faced with one true center on Saturday’s opener, Biyombo. Biyombo is by no means a bad center, but you are not flaunting about him being on your team. With the Jazz, they have a lot to be proud of at the five, with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors playing off the bench for the team.
Gobert and Favors are known for there inside game on offense as their prowess’ inside are much better than really all bigs this new-look Thunder have faced this preseason and in the opener.
With the Thunder only having one true center in Al Horford guys such as Mike Muscala and Darius Bazley will be called on to try to stop Gobert and Favors. Another player you may want to keep in your head tonight is Isaiah Roby, as he played solid as the team’s small ball 4 and 5 in the preseason, maybe he could get some reps on the bigs too.
3) Limiting Turnovers
The Thunder gave up 17 turnovers in the season opener to Charlotte, with five of those coming in the final two minutes of the game. Limiting these turnovers will be pivotal to Monday’s game. Of the teams 17 turnovers, 9 of those came at the hands of SGA and Maledon, they will need to ease up a bit and not force and erratic passes, just let the game come naturally.
Maledon’s case for his four turnovers is debatable, as a majority of them were due to bad spacing and rotations, but he still needs to sure up on keeping the ball in his hands.
Silly turnovers like the ones shown on Saturday simply will not cut it against Utah so look to see alot less drives and 50/50 passes in the game.