(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

The Drive and Dish | March 21, 2024

Appreciate Kenrich Williams! Creating Advantages, JDub Everywhere, Kenrich Being Kenrich and Chet’s Restraint

By Nick Gallo | Broadcast Reporter and Digital Editor | okcthunder.com

Creating Advantages, JDub Everywhere, Kenrich Being Kenrich and Chet’s Restraint

The Drive and Dish is here to answer the questions that might be going through your head during a Thunder game by providing experienced insight, highlighting aspects of the game you might have missed and pulling you behind the curtain with anecdotes, analysis, and stats.   

Here’s what you need to know as the Thunder heads out of town for a three-game road trip to Toronto, Milwaukee and New Orleans. 

Thunder Slams Jazz in the 4th

Wednesday’s game was a tricky one to play. After three days off leading in for the Thunder and with a road trip coming up the next day, a feisty but unpredictable Utah Jazz team came into Paycom Center and kept OKC thoroughly engaged in a slogging, tension-filled battle through the first three quarters.

In the final frame, however, the Thunder went up to the top rope and slammed the Jazz with a 30-13 start over the first eight minutes, accentuated by some highlight reel dunks by Chet Holmgren. The Thunder rookie big man finished with five dunks on his way to 35 points, one shy of a career-high, on a super-efficient 12-of-18 shooting and added a career-high-tying 14 rebounds to go with 3 blocks and 2 steals. 

Against the size and length of the Jazz, the Thunder found its advantages by clearing space for Holmgren on rolls to the rim, but also by getting out and running. Generating 19 points off 16 Jazz turnovers and scooping up loose defensive rebounds led to 35 Thunder fast break points as OKC ran away with this one to take the season series against Utah 3-1. 

Around the Horn

On offense, the Thunder’s very first objective is to create an advantage, be it with a quick first step on a drive, a solidly set screen or a sharply thrown pass. That one step of an advantage can beget another and another when the Thunder’s offensive flow is right, and at home against Dallas last Thursday OKC had it all going. 

The extra passing was on point and it generated open looks for just about everyone. Isaiah Joe got a good look on a sidestep three in the first quarter off a dish from Lu Dort, then returned the favor to Dort in the second quarter. Later in that frame it was the bigs who got involved, with Jaylin Williams making an extra pass to Chet Holmgren in the corner for 3. 

The defining sequence of the game came late in the fourth quarter though, on a bucket that helped ensure the Thunder’s 126-119 victory over the Mavericks. The play started with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander driving and kicking out to Jalen Williams in the right corner, then the ball swung around the horn to JWill, to Joe and then over to the left corner where Dort stood wide open for a catch-and-shoot 3. Each player had a better advantage than the one before but kept doubling down until OKC got a look that was completely wide open. 

Dub’s Seven-Straight, Dub’s Hustle, Dub’s Slam

In what’s been a rarity for Thunder players this season, Jalen Williams had to miss the Thunder’s home game against the Indiana Pacers due to a sprained ankle. Diligent in his approach during his recovery, Williams was able to bounce back and play again on Thursday against Dallas and was an absolute wrecking ball of energy. In the first quarter he scored seven straight points on three consecutive possessions – converting at all three levels in succession with a layup, a runner and a 3-pointer. 

In the second quarter, Dub got his dribble taken by perhaps the best ballhandler in the NBA in Kyrie Irving but recovered in transition with remarkable hustle just in time to swat away Irving’s would-be lefty layup.

In the third quarter Jalen reprised that same role with a chase down block on Derrick Jones Jr., swooping in to save the day to help preserve OKC’s 8-point lead. Then in the fourth JDub kept his head on a swivel and his motor running – bursting in from the left wing on an offensive rebound by Cason Wallace. Hitting the runway with the jet fuel burning, Williams elevated and burst to the rim for a ferocious one-handed slam to put the Mavericks away for good. 

Appreciate Kenrich Williams

The Thunder’s Royce Young captured the spirit of Saturday night’s gritty, grimy win in Memphis with such succinct clarity and sincerity. “Appreciate Kenrich Williams”, Young tweeted. In a game where the Grizzlies had a bit of extra juice with Desmond Bane back in the starting lineup, Kenrich – a former TCU Horned Frog just like Bane – brought level of tenacity that proved to be crucial to snag a hard-fought road win. 

K-Rich met Wenyen Gabriel at the rim to block his shot in the first quarter, then in the fourth helped carve out enough separation with a pair of identity plays – he knocked down a catch-and-shoot 3 on the wing to give the Thunder a seven-point lead, then on the very next possession he dug down on a post-up by Jaren Jackson Jr. and simply ripped the ball out of the big man’s hands. 

There are a couple plays that Kenrich makes each game that take you out of the pristine game of basketball for a split second – and help you remember that sometimes it’s just about who wants to go get the ball more that matters. Appreciate Kenrich Williams for that. 

Chet’s Restraint

He was one of the most decorated high school players in the country before heading to Gonzaga for a year of college. He became the  second overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft, with all the attendant fanfare and buzz. He had to miss his first full year as a professional due to an unpredictable foot injury, but instead of pressing the issue or making up for lost time, Chet Holmgren has shown unbelievable restraint for a 21-year-old Rookie of the Year candidate. 

Instead of firing up shots from all over, Chet is taking the good ones – fewer than 12 field goal attempts per game – yet has been stunningly efficient for a rookie: 16.8 points on 53.7 percent shooting and 39.2 percent from the 3-point line. 

That efficiency, and the restraint behind it, has been what has allowed Chet to shine when his team needs him most and to, most importantly, drive the winning that he and his teammates so fervently march toward each night. In Memphis, it was Chet’s time to step up and fill in some gaps – showing a feel for the flow of the game that’s uncommon for someone so young. In the second half, Chet attacked the middle of the floor and scored on a spin move, a straight-line drive and a pump-fake, step through. But it was the shot he didn’t take that slammed the door on a Grizzlies comeback. 

As JDub got trapped behind the 3-point line, Chet made himself available at the right elbow to receive a pass. Whipping immediately over his shoulder, Holmgren saw his fellow rookie Cason Wallace streaking in from the left corner down the baseline. Instead of trying to add to his 20th double-double of the season, Chet simply made the smart play with an instinctual diagonal pass to create an easy bucket in OKC’s 118-112 road win. 

Thunder Gives Back to Infant Crisis Center

On Tuesday at Oklahoma City’s Infant Crisis Services, there was a sea of Thunder blue. Over 200 Thunder employees including players and coaches from the Thunder and OKC Blue filled up the center to help families in need across the metro area. 

There were stations for packing diapers and for packaging food like canned goods and pasta and Thunder players humbly did their part in the assembly line. By the end of the day, the Thunder’s community engagement team announced that the staff had packed over 100,000 diapers and enough care kits to service 2,600 families in need. 

On a typical day, ICC has around 20 volunteers packing kits to go to families. The Thunder brought in 200 in one day - and did it during ICC's 40th anniversary. Kenrich Williams said that as a father of two young children that he’s used to dealing with a lot of diapers, but not a warehouse full like he was on Tuesday. 

"Having two kids of my own, and I grew up in a single parent home as well, so I know that diapers are something that are very well needed,” Kenrich Williams said. “it's a blessing to be able to do something like this."

Looking Ahead 

The Thunder heads north of the border where Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort will likely have massive contingents awaiting them in Toronto as the Thunder faces the Raptors on Friday. That game will be broadcast locally for free over the air via antenna on KSBI channel 52 in Oklahoma City or channel 6.3 in Tulsa. The Thunder’s games in Milwaukee and New Orleans to round out the road trip will be carried on Bally Sports Oklahoma. Follow along on our @okcthunder social accounts and stay here on the Thunder App or okcthunder.com

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