Friday, April 12, 2024
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NBA Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder (32-13) at Detroit Pistons (5-40)

The Oklahoma City Thunder will carry a five-game winning streak and the best record in the Western Conference into a Sunday matinee against the team with the NBA’s worst record, the host Detroit Pistons.

Oklahoma City continued its winning streak on Friday with a 107-83 win in New Orleans and one of its best defensive performances of the season, holding the Pelicans to 32-of-82 shooting (39 percent) from the floor while forcing 20 turnovers.

The 83 points allowed made for Oklahoma City’s second-lowest yield in 2023-24. The Thunder have given up an average of 112.9 points per game for the campaign, but in their past nine wins of an 11-game stretch, they are surrendering just 106.3 points per contest.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City offense — third in the NBA at 121.6 points per game — has averaged 123.2 points in those nine wins. The Thunder surpassed 130 points in four of those wins, the most recent coming in a 140-114 rout of San Antonio on Wednesday.

Holmgren has helped fuel Oklahoma City’s defensive efforts with 2.6 blocked shots per game, fourth most in the league. He is also grabbing a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game.

At 17.2 points per game, Holmgren is also one of five Thunder players with a scoring average in double figures — a quintet led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his 31.1 points per contest, third most in the NBA.

Detroit comes into Sunday’s game on the second half of a weekend back-to-back. The Pistons lost on Saturday to the Washington Wizards, 118-104, despite 30 points from Bojan Bogdanovic and 20 points and 12 assists from Cade Cunningham in his return from a left knee strain.

Cunningham, Detroit’s leading scorer for the season at 22.8 points per game, missed the previous eight games. Despite welcoming back their top scorer, the Pistons had their lowest point total since a 124-92 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 15.

Sunday’s meeting is the first between the teams since Oct. 30, a 124-112 Oklahoma City win. That Detroit loss was the first of an NBA record 28 straight. The Pistons did not end their historic slide until Dec. 30.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 32 points in the previous meeting, while Jaden Ivey’s 20 points off the bench led Detroit.

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