The Thunder leads the NBA in the number of opposing field goals that it contests per game, including the number of 2-point shots that it contests. What that means is that the Thunder is flying out to the 3-point line, running opponents away from long-range, in-rhythm jumpers, then is making second and third efforts to get a hand up and challenge shots inside the arc. While the execution will not be perfect every night and opponents will likely go on scoring binges from time to time, the Thunder is playing with great energy.
“That’s certainly an emphasis – with all the information that we have on shooting locations – one of the most predictive of whether or not a shot is efficient or not is the quality of that shot and how contested it is,” said Daigneault.
What the Thunder is aiming for is a sustainable defensive game plan that can be carried over regardless of the opposition’s talent level or personnel. One that is focused on effort and energy satisfies that requirement. From there, individuals can go out and make plays with their instincts and innate gifts. Bazley ran off a streak of nine consecutive games with a blocked shot, setting a career-high as he had the third-longest active streak at the time. Diallo racked up a career-high four steals against Brooklyn and for extended stretches, Dort has given high-level scorers like Donovan Mitchell and RJ Barrett headaches.
“We do have an athleticism and a feistiness to us that we’d like to tap into on the margins,” said Daigneault. “Over the course of 48 minutes in a game and how good the players are in the NBA, you can’t get too crazy with your aggressiveness or the ball will stay ahead of you and you’ll end up in rotation all night. But there’s small ways that you can get your physicality into the game and that you can get your energy into the game.”