Following two games on the road, the Thunder returned home to Oklahoma City to begin a three-game home stand inside of Paycom Center. The squad will look to take the lessons from its tough loss against Houston on Friday and apply to them to its next test in the Philadelphia 76ers in its regular season home opener on Sunday. After two games in enemy territory, the Thunder will now get the chance to build on those lessons with the energy and spirit of Loud City behind it.
#ThunderUp All. Week. Long.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) October 23, 2021
What to Watch
Home Sweet Home
The Thunder opened its season with a two-game road trip through the tough opposing crowds of Salt Lake City and Houston. Now, the team returns to Oklahoma City and Paycom Center for the first time of the regular season. It will be a welcomed sight for the Thunder who hasn’t played a regular season game in front of its home crowd since March 2020.
“Oh man, I’m looking forward to it,” said Thunder wing Kenrich Williams. “Getting a chance to play in front of a Thunder crowd. I know the fans are ready to see some basketball. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Battle of the Bigs
As the Thunder learned in its game against Houston, the first five minutes of each half are critical in terms of setting a tone for the game. Against the size and length of the 76ers, look for the Thunder to come out of the gates looking to establish a baseline of physicality and toughness on the defensive end in order to generate stops and ignite opportunities on the other end of the floor.
“If we’re getting stops and getting rebounds, we’re able to push it back the other way and get more of an advantage,” said Thunder big man Mike Muscala. “But if we’re constantly taking the ball out of bounds, the defense is already set. In order to make runs, we have to get stops.”
Battle of the Bigs
With a frontline of Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond off the bench, the Thunder can expect to go up against a lot of size in and around the paint on Sunday. This won’t, however, be the first time this season where OKC has faced a sizeable opponent.
After facing Utah’s Rudy Gobert on Wednesday, the duo of Daniel Theis and Christian Wood in Houston and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic during the preseason, OKC has a catalogue of film and lessons on its side for Sunday’s matchup. With an array of lineups and player combinations at its disposal, keep an eye out for how the Thunder utilizes the versatility on its roster to combat Philly’s size.
Over the Thunder’s first two games, rookies Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (7 ppg), Tre Mann (8.5 ppg) and Josh Giddey (5 ppg) have all logged consistent minutes within the rotation. With their time on the floor, all three have found themselves in the top five of points per game for rookies in their first two games in OKC history. Keep an eye on how these newcomers continue building onto their game throughout the regular season.
Mike Muscala on Sunday’s home opener
“It’ll be great to have the energy at Paycom Center. We have to come out ready to play on Sunday. It’s a big game for us. We have to come out with a sense of urgency and more competitive toughness.”
Coach Daigneault on having fans in the building for the regular season home opener
It’s a pretty unique relationship between the team and the fans and one that we certainly appreciate and embrace. So the ability to get back in front of them and to connect with them in a way that you can with a home fan base at home games is going to be really exciting.”
Philadelphia enters Oklahoma City having split its first two regular season games, most recently dropping its matchup against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday 109-114.
Philly is returning 11 of its players from last season’s roster including its core trio of Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons. While Simmons has missed the team’s first two regular season matchups, Harris and Embiid have combined for 42 points and 16.5 rebounds per game over those two contests. On the perimeter, Sixers’ sharp shooter Seth Curry has gone a blistering 6-of-7 from 3 this season while also boasting a career 44.6 percent clip from deep (the best among active players).