The Oklahoma City Thunder and Atlanta Hawks both have had to learn how to play without key players recently.
That might be the case again Friday, when the teams meet in Oklahoma City.
For the Thunder, center Steven Adams and small forward Terrance Ferguson have been out recently. Adams’ absence has been due to an ankle injury suffered early in Monday’s win in Houston. His backup, Nerlens Noel, has been battling an ankle injury on and off since early in the month.
Noel played in Wednesday’s win in Orlando but still is hampered by the injury.
Without as much depth in the middle, the Thunder have had to regularly rely on Mike Muscala.
“Obviously when Steven’s playing, he’s more of an around-the-basket guy and so is Nerlens,” Oklahoma City point guard Chris Paul said. “Mike is a stretch-the-court kind of guy so when he plays, it’s great because he gives us a different dynamic.”
Muscala was hit all four tries from behind the 3-point line in Wednesday’s victory.
The Hawks could be without second-year point guard Trae Young on Friday.
Young, who entered Thursday in the top five in the NBA in scoring (29.2 points per game) and assists (8.6), sat out Wednesday’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers because of a right thigh contusion he suffered in Monday’s loss to Toronto.
Atlanta fell behind early, trailing by as many as 21 points in the second quarter before slowly climbing back.
It was Atlanta’s first win without Young this season. The Hawks had lost each of the first three games he sat out.
While Young has been such a focal point of Atlanta’s offense, either creating for himself or facilitating for others, the Hawks had to figure out how to be successful without him against the Clippers.
“I hope this is a momentum builder,” Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce said. “I hope it’s an understanding of how we have to play from start to finish.”
Young is listed as questionable for Friday’s game, though he participated in Thursday’s practice.
Young grew up in Norman, Okla., just south of Oklahoma City.
In his lone appearance in his home state as a rookie, Young was just four of 15 from the field in a 15-point loss last season.
If Young does play, Ferguson’s status figures to be magnified. Ferguson has been an excellent perimeter defender this season, but he has missed the last three games for personal reasons and has missed nine games overall.
The Hawks announced Thursday that forward Chandler Parsons, who was involved in an automobile accident Jan. 15 that left him with a concussion and other injuries, was still in the first stage of the league’s concussion protocol and that Parsons would return home to California to continue his recovery.
This is the first meeting of the season between the teams. They split last season’s two games.
–Field Level Media