Timberwolves (3-1, 2-1 road) vs. Thunder (1-3, 0-1 home)
TV: None (Live-streamed through okcthunder.com and the OKC Thunder app if you live in Oklahoma)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 6:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats for the preseason)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 103.7 (9th), Timberwolves – 97.3 (21st)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 109.3 (29th), Timberwolves – 94.3 (6th)
The Oklahoma City Thunder come into this game with a 1-3 record. A record that is unfamiliar to the Thunder fanbase, even for preseason. But I’m starting to think the Thunder are figuring some things out. The team did a good job of hanging with the Memphis Grizzlies in the third quarter of their game, even as the Grizzlies kept their starters in and the Thunder played with basically an all bench line-up that likely featured some players that won’t even be on the opening night roster.
The thing that most people thought would be the Achilles heel for this team has been anything but. Three-point shooting has all the sudden become the Thunder’s secret weapon. So much so that the Thunder are top 5 in 3-point FGs made and 3-point FG percentage. Alex Abrines and Kyle Singler shot 10-12 from deep in their last game. I know, I know. Small sample size and unsustainable. But, if this continues even on a league average track, then the Thunder will be that much more competitive throughout.
The defense is still an issue, but with everyone coming back tonight, look for that to improve. For the Thunder, the preseason likely starts tonight. The first four games were used to see how some things work, to see who would be on the final roster, and to see what rotation would likely be used in the first 5 games of the season. With a lot of that stuff figured out, tonight should be closer to a regular season game than the previous 4.
The Timberwolves come into this game with a 3-1 record for the preseason. They are in the same position the Thunder were 7 years ago. A young team with extremely talented players trying to learn how to win in the league. The Thunder took a leap forward 7 years ago when they started to focus on defense through assistant coach Ron Adams. With the hiring to Tom Thibodeau as head coach, the T-wolves appear headed in the same direction.
The T-Wolves’ big trio of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Zach Lavine look to build off of their first season together last year. In addition, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, and Nemanja Bjelica have been upping their games off the bench this preseason. Rookie Kris Dunn has struggled some this preseason, but that is usually the case with athletic point guards.
Out for the Thunder
Cameron Payne (foot)
3 Big Things1. Victor Oladipo
I feel like Oladipo has been pressing a bit. No one expects him to replace the production left from Durant’s departure, but we also need for him to find his shot before the season starts. One of my biggest fears for this backcourt was the similarity in styles between Oladipo and Westbrook. If the defense focuses on stopping their drives to the basket, the offense will eventually start to sputter.2. Karl Anthony Town vs. Steven Adams
The future is now. The future of the NBA may not be in 3-point shooting. Instead, with so many talented big men on the horizon, the future of the NBA may look a lot like it’s recent past with athletic behemoths controlling the paint on both sides of the ball.3. Home Sweet Home
The Thunder return home for the first time since Game 6 of last season’s Western Conference Finals. A lot has changed since then. But the team and the fanbase are looking forward, not backwards (where have I heard that before?). Here’s to home advantage giving the Thunder an extra boost tonight.