Thunder (1-1, 1-1 road) vs. Mavericks (1-2, 1-0 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 7:30 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats for the preseason)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 108.3 (2nd), Mavericks – 95.1 (23rd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 111.4 (30th), Mavericks – 101.5 (22nd)
A training camp trip to Spain can do a lot for a team. It can build camaraderie. It can allow you to practice without the distractions of home life. It can allow you to reflect on the previous season and prospect on the upcoming season. It can do a ton of good things. But one thing it can’t do, especially if you are playing against EuroLeague teams, is gauge where you are in comparison with the rest of the NBA. If we’re being honest, EuroLeague teams are nothing more than international D-League All-Star teams. Most of the best international players are already in the NBA. And most international teams feature American players who couldn’t make it in the league. The team’s system is usually more important than the players themselves. Russell Westbrook probably said it best when describing the EuroLeague offenses, “Their offenses are 10 times better than NBA offenses just because they move around a lot. A lot of movement and not as much talent, so they have to do different things to be able to score the basketball.”
While the numbers may not equally compare to competition against NBA teams, there are trends that are worrisome with this Thunder team, especially on defense. The 30th ranked defense was very surprising to me, especially when I thought they played an average defensive game against FC Barcelona. Secondly, allowing 50% 3-point shooting on 68 attempts in two games is way too much. Do that against the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets, and its lights out by halftime. Thirdly, getting a rebounding edge of only +3 in the two games also affected how the Thunder’s defensive numbers played out. Real Madrid grabbed 11 offensive boards which led to 19 second chance points. And finally, the bane of the Thunder’s existence: turnovers. Twenty-two per game in Spain.
But always remember: preseason. Russell Westbrook only played half the game in both games. Steven Adams only played about one quarter in two games due to a sprained ankle. Enes Kanter played a lot of minutes. The reserves played a ton as head coach Billy Donovan explores what works and what doesn’t. The issues could easily be eradicated by the time the opening tip happens on October 26th in Philadelphia. Or it could just be the beginning of a long journey as the team reformats around Westbrook.The Opponent
The Dallas Mavericks come into tonight’s game with a 1-2 preseason record. Their lone victory occurred at home against the Charlotte Hornets. Justin Anderson has been a big positive for the Mavs this preseason. His energy on the perimeter will prove vital on a team with so many veterans. Seth Curry leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game on 61.5% shooting from deep. Up front, Dwight Powell has been the interior equivalent to Justin Anderson. His energy has allowed him grab 5.7 boards per game and come up with various 2nd chance opportunities for the Mavs. The point guard situation for the Mavericks still features the same three wily vets from last season in JJ Barea, Deron Williams, and Devin Harris. Dirk Nowitzki and Harris, who have yet to play in a game this preseason, will suit up for the Mavericks.3 Big Things1. Three-point shooting
Even though the Mavericks don’t shoot it at great efficiency, they aren’t afraid to shoot it. They are 5th this preseason in 3-point attempts per game at 31 per game and 8th in makes at 10.3. It’ll be a great test for the Thunder to see how they guard against a high volume NBA team, especially with Andre Roberson sitting out this contest with knee soreness (just a precaution).2. Steven Adams
The Thunder big man is currently questionable for tonight’s game. He was his normal self at practice yesterday (if by normal you mean getting abused by 51 year old assistant coach Mark Bryant) and went through shoot-around this morning. If he plays, it should help anchor the interior part of the defense and should bring some consistency to Donovan’s big man rotation.3. Rebounding
Besides the scoring, one of the biggest things the Thunder will likely miss from Kevin Durant is his rebounding from the wing position. Durant led the team in rebounding at 8.2 boards per game. So far this preseason, the Thunder rank dead last at 35.5 boards per game. I’m not sure if the drop in rebounding is caused by playing two EuroLeague teams, if Adams’ injury had that much impact on the rebounding, or if the loss of Durant and Serge Ibaka will change the rebounding ability of the team, but the difference from last season to this season so far is pretty stark (sample size not withstanding).