Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s divisional match-up with the Jazz: “Against the Northwest Division rival Jazz, the team the Thunder lost to in the first round of the 2018 Playoffs, the Thunder is uniquely familiar with the style of play coming its way. On defense, Donovan’s bunch will need to limit dribble drives from Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio into the paint and to stay tight on the perimeter to prevent skip passes and drift passes from finding Jazz shooters like Joe Ingles and Kyle Korver in the corners. On offense, the Thunder will look to post the ball at the basket with a variety of players in order to get into different concepts and to move the defense. Planted down low will be Utah center Rudy Gobert, who is averaging 2.0 blocks and impacting many more shots than that at the rim. The Thunder may not be able to completely pull Gobert away from the rim when he sits in that drop pick-and-roll coverage that Utah employs, but it can find ways to put him in some binds down there.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on how OKC can get the best of Rudy Gobert: “That means facing Gobert, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year who anchors the paint defensively as well as any center in the league. How does the Thunder draw him away from the basket, particularly when Steven Adams isn’t a threat to shoot from the perimeter? “He’s going to be back there,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “There’s not a lot necessarily you can do. Obviously, Steven with his passing can facilitate and create some offense, but in terms of getting him out of the paint, he’ll get out when Steven’s away from the ball. But when Steven’s got the ball or pick-and-roll, those kind of things, he’s going to try to stay in the paint. “So, it’s not about necessarily trying to get him out of there. That’s what he does, that’s what they do. And they will do that to try to utilize his shot blocking.”
Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on the Thunder’s need to clean up 3-point defense: “The Thunder has put an emphasis on defending 3-point shooting this season, so much so that OKC coach Billy Donovan brought it up as an aspect of the team’s identity. Entering play Sunday, the Thunder ranked fifth best in the league in opponent 3-point percentage (32.8), after Thunder opponents shot 36.7 percent from 3-point range last season. But that’s not the statistic Donovan looks at after every game. Instead, he tracks how contested the 3-point shots are that Thunder opponents are taking. “You’re not going to stop a player above the break from taking a three when he wants to,” Donovan said last week. “But you can have an impact on how contested it is.” He pointed to the Thunder’s 124-109 win over Atlanta. The Hawks shot just 11-of-36 from beyond the arc.”
Brett Dawson (Athletic) on Friday night’s loss in Chicago: “Paul George had another shot in the air, and it would have been a hell of a story if he’d made it. The Thunder would have beaten the Bulls on Friday and George, who’d never made a go-ahead shot in the final 10 seconds of a game before this week, would have done it twice in three nights. Instead, George — who sank a game-winner at Brooklyn on Wednesday — misfired in Friday’s 114-112 loss to the Bulls. And so you’re reading the story you would have read then. It’s about how the Thunder’s NBA-leading defense had too many lapses, how it was out of sorts in the first half and got right too late. It’s about how Oklahoma City surrendered too many open looks behind the 3-point line to overcome. It’s about how these games happen sometimes, even though they hadn’t happened to the Thunder.”
Zach Buckley (B/R) on one trade the Thunder should be considering: “Joe Harris. Joe Harris would be a godsend. He’s one of only a dozen snipers with at least 250threes and a 40-percent conversion rate since the start of 2016-17. He’scashing in a career-best 44.0 percent from distance this season. The Brooklyn Nets clearly like him. They not only held onto him at last season’s trade deadline, they furthered their commitment by inking him to a two-year,$16 million pact this summer. But he’s 27 years old on a rebuilding team. Logic says the Nets have a price they’d take for him, and the Thunder must be willing to pay to give the George-Westbrook duo its best shot at success.”
ESPN has the Thunder fourth in their latest power rankings: “The Thunder have lost only four games total since their 0-4 start, but their most recent defeat — to a Bulls team that would lose by 56 points to the Celtics one night later — was a disappointment. The hiccup in Chicago aside, the Thunder have ridden their stifling defense (NBA-best 102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) to move to the top of the Northwest Division.”
Reminder: The Thunder is a very expensive basketball team.
Around the League: LeBron & D-Wade square off for the final time tonight…. The Lakers are reportedly trying to land Trevor Ariza…. The Jim Boylen-era is not going well in Chicago…. Draymond Green is back for the Warriors — Boogie Cousins is practicing in the G-League…. Recapping last night’s NBA action.