Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
(Nathaniel S. Butler | NBAE via Getty Images)

The Reporters' Notebook: Team Effort Lifts Thunder

By Nick Gallo and Paris Lawson | okcthunder.com

Highlights: OKC 145, NYK 135

The Big Picture

It was a unique matinee matchup inside the World’s Most Famous Arena. The Thunder made its way up the ramp and into Madison Square Garden to face the Knicks at 11 am CT. After giving up 48 first-quarter points the Thunder settled the ship and outscored the Knicks by 18 in the second quarter, using an 11-2 run fueled by the second unit. OKC scored a season-high 79 first-half points on its way to a 145-135 road victory

Outscoring the Knicks 86-58 in quarters two and three, the Thunder added to its standing as the second best third quarter team in terms of point differential this season. Shai scored 21 of his 37 in the third quarter giving him 12 double-digit scoring quarters this season, while Josh Giddey registered a 24-point, 10-rebound, 12-assist triple-double. As a team, the Thunder racked up 31 assists and 17-made 3s while shooting a blistering 62.5 percent from the field. 

Observations
1st Quarter

Nick: By simply sprinting the floor and getting into position early, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was able to sneak in four points on a pair of layups thanks to some quick hit-ahead passes from teammates. The Thunder always aims to play up-tempo basketball, and the first aspect of that is getting up the floor fast and spacing the floor correctly. That attacking nature helped OKC score 20 points in the paint in the first quarter alone. 

Paris:  The Thunder using its speed to its advantage in this one by getting to quick actions even on made baskets by the Knicks. A made floater by Isaiah Hartenstein on one end of the floor turned into a layup by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the following seconds. A made basket by Jalen Brunson transitioned quickly into a basket at the rim by Lu Dort offensively. The quick-fire offense has allowed the Thunder to withstand the 65-percent shooting from the Knicks in the opening frame. 

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler | NBAE via Getty Images)
2nd Quarter

Nick: Two nice defensive plays early in the second quarter by Isaiah Joe, crashing over from the help side to strip Obi Toppin down low, then he steps into the middle of the lane and takes a charge to force a second turnover. Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor, Joe buried a top of the key 3 and then stepped into the midrange for a jumper as well to help the Thunder’s second unit keep this one within striking distance. Joe scored all eight of his points in the second quarter alone. 

Paris: After a massive 48-point first quarter by the Knicks, the Thunder responded strongly in the second frame to take its first lead of the day. It was the sharp-shooting from Isaiah Joe, tough defensive stops from all five players and a mental poise that allowed OKC to not only weather the early storm of New York’s hot shooting, but also take a lead heading into halftime. In the second quarter, the Thunder outscored the Knicks 43 to 25. 

3rd Quarter

Nick: Setting the tone coming out of the locker room to start the third quarter was going to be essential after that first half shootout, and Lu Dort is a man who knows how to do just that. He racked up seven quick points on a driving bucket, a 3-pointer and two free throws in the first two minutes of the third quarter, helping the Thunder maintain a lead. 

Paris: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got the ball on the wing, guarded by veteran Derrick Rose. With just 45 seconds left in the game, the Thunder’s leading scorer stepped back, executed a patient shot fake that sent Rose out of position. SGA released the ball which swished through the nets and added to OKC’s 16-point lead going into halftime. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 21 of his 37 points in the third quarter – registering his eighth 30-point game this season which is tied for the third most in the league. 

4th Quarter

Paris: It was déjà vu for Josh Giddey whose last game inside of Madison Square Garden resulted in a triple-double.The second-year player finished the night with a well-rounded 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Giddey’s 12 assists generated 28 points of Thunder offense while he also made a living in the paint with his go-to floater at the rim. 

Nick: The Knicks made a fourth quarter run, pulling to within 11 at 133-122 with just over four minutes to go, but 2nd year guard Aaron Wiggins pulled down a big rebound off of an Evan Fournier missed three-pointer to seal off a defensive stop. On the other end, the Thunder stayed with it through multiple chances at the rim and even a timeout after the ball was blocked out of bounds with 1.0 left on the shot clock. Wiggins put up a shot to beat the clock and hit the rim, but Robinson-Earl was there to tip in his own miss to keep the Knicks at bay.

Quotes of the Night

"We obviously didn't start the way we wanted to. Some of that was us. Some of that was them. They were in a pretty good little rhythm to start the game. It's not going to be perfect over 82 games and we did a great job of course correcting in the second quarter and just settled back into our stuff and got back into the game and then got a control of the game going into the half. Really good job by the team. We showed great maturity in the second quarter." - Mark Daigneault 

"When we're playing fast, we're playing ahead of the defense, we're playing together, I think we're pretty good. We get a lot of good looks. The better the looks, the more points you score. That's when we're at our best." - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 

"That's the best thing about our team. We've got such an unselfish, willing group that buys into what we're doing as a team. No one goes off on their own ventures trying to do it themselves. We have five guys on the floor, guys on the bench are active, talking. The coaching staff is engaged, so it kind of runs through the whole group. That's the best thing about our team. We always pride ourselves and preach getting it done with five guys." - Josh Giddey 

What's Next

After Sunday’s matinee against the Knicks, the Thunder will fly up north to Boston to take on another Atlantic division foe with a battle with the Celtics on the second night of a back to back.  

The Walkout: Spreading the Wealth

Sunday's Photos
By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder