By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com
THE BIG PICTURE
In its first game back inside of Paycom Center in over a week, the Thunder put on a show in front of its home crowd. The Thunder trailed by as many as 28 points in the second half against the Bulls but found a second gear in the fourth quarter to turn the game around significantly. It was a 22-6 run by the Thunder in the final frame that put pressure on the Bulls comfortable lead and put the Thunder in a position to steal the win in the final moments before falling shy by one point.
Highlights: OKC vs. CHI
MOMENTS FROM THE 48
Massive Comeback Effort
OKC trailed by as many as 28 points in the second half as the Bulls’ offense shot at an efficient 52 percent clip from the field and a 44 percent clip from behind the arc through the first three quarters. Though the Thunder generated quality looks, the shots weren’t falling at a rate that would turn help generate a change in momentum.
The Thunder managed to shift the tides in the third quarter shaving down the 28-point margin to just 14 thanks to an extended 22-8 run heading into the final quarter.
This opened the door for a massive Thunder rally in the fourth to outscore the Bulls 32-19 while shooting at a 46 percent clip from the field. The Thunder’s defensive pressure intensified – picking up full court, contesting and blocking shots and suddenly the Bulls’ red-hot offense was shooting at just a 25 percent clip from deep and 27 percent from the field.
“I give our guys a lot of credit, the ball pressure really amped up and they brought a lot of energy in the back court,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “To go up there and pressure the ball like that it was huge for us because it took them out of their offense and didn't allow them to use their size at the five.”
A 3-pointer by Lu Dort with 52 seconds left made it a one-possession ball game for the first time since the opening quarter. Chicago’s Coby White missed a 3-pointer on the other end that sent the Thunder off to the races in transition and resulted in a layup for rookie Josh Giddey to make it a one-point ball game with just 14.8 seconds left.
The Thunder fouled Zach LaVine on the following possession who sank both free throws to send the margin up to three points. The Thunder had the opportunity to answer with a 3-pointer on the other end, but missed the look allowing Chicago to escape with a narrow victory.
“Regardless of what is going on in the game – scoreboard and things you can't control – you’ve just got to continue to stay in the in the moment and in the next possession because the game can turn and you want to be ready when it does and I thought we did that,” said Daigneault. “Certainly great fight by our guys you know to hang in there and keep coming.
Competing With Heart
With a high-motored attack and layup at the rim in the third quarter, Thunder leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander notched his 4,000th career point and became just one of two players from the 2018 draft class to surpass 4,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. For the night, the bucket marked just two of SGA’s game-high 31 points and 10 assists. The league-leader in drives per game ignited the Thunder’s offense throughout the game with high-tempo attacks to the rim that resulted in either layups at the basket, free throws or drive and kick opportunities.
“That was a really efficient 31 points,” said Daigneault. “He got the line a ton. He made the right passes, got his teammate shots, and played with pace up the floor and played with pace inside the action which makes it harder for the defense to help on him.”
“No different from every night,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “That's something that I try to hang my hat on.”
Giddey Grabs Award
After being named Western Conference rookie of the Month for December, Thunder rookie Josh Giddey was presented with his award prior to tipoff on Monday night. The honor marked Giddey’s second consecutive Rookie of the Month recognition after winning the award for his efforts from October and November as well.
For the night, Giddey finished with a balanced nine points, eight rebounds and six assists marking his 20th game of 5-5-5 this season.
THE LAST WORD
Lu Dort on the mentality in the fourth quarter…
“It's a 48-minute game, and we’ve just got to stay together. The whole team, we know we’re capable of coming back and when it's not going our way, we’ve just got to stay together and just keep competing and then stuff offensively is gonna fall and that’s what we did tonight.”
After a demanding stretch that included four games in six nights, the Thunder will enjoy a rare three-day stretch before its next game on Friday to face the Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m. CT.