Aaron Wiggins
(Coby Van Loan | OKC Thunder)

DEFENSIVE EFFORT LIFTS THUNDER

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com

BOX SCORE: OKC 118, ORL 102

Disruptive Defense Fuels Rally

THE BIG PICTURE

In its second meeting in just four days, the Thunder and the Magic exchanged 13-point leads in the first half. Orlando jumped out to the early start, but the Thunder responded with a lock-down defensive effort in the second quarter to take a double-digit lead of its own. Thanks to three OKC players with 20-plus points and 52 points from the bench, the Thunder logged its 13th double-digit comeback of the season. 

MOMENTS FROM THE 48

A Dominant Second Quarter 

Orlando burst out to an early 13-point lead in the first quarter thanks to a 50-percent shooting clip from the field. All five Magic starters scored at least one bucket and the group sank six triples to build up the double-digit lead. 

The Thunder answered in the very next frame holding Orlando scoreless for 7:45 sec after the Magic built up its 13-point buffer. The stint marked the longest stretch this season that OKC has held an opponent scoreless. 

OKC threw a variety of defensive coverages to disrupt Orlando’s offensive rhythm and as a result, they missed its first 11 shots of the frame. Meanwhile the Thunder’s offense caught fire at the right time, storming ahead on a 25-5 run to take a 13-point lead of its own. 

“We really tightened up with our help especially and did a nice job in the in the meat of the game,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “Help-oriented, played hard, competed, good communication. Good in man, good in the zone. We played pretty well defensively tonight for much of the game.”

The Thunder’s second quarter outburst provided the team with a safe double-digit lead that would carry the team throughout the rest of the game, even when the Magic tried to generate momentum of its own. During those stretches, the Thunder received offensive buoys from its three players who finished with 20-plus points: Théo Maledon (25), Isaiah Roby (21) and Tre Mann (21). 

Théo Leads the Way

Thunder second year guard Théo Maledon notched 14 points in the fourth quarter on the way to a season high and game high 25-point performance. The France native demonstrated an efficient scoring night going 9-of-13 from the field along with a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line. 

Throughout the season, Maledon has fluctuated between time with the OKC Blue and limited rotation minutes with the Thunder. All the while, Coach Daigneault credited Maledon on his ability to handle adversity with a level head and remain focused on putting in the work. As the Thunder has navigated injuries throughout the All-Star Break, Maledon has stepped into extended playing time and displayed how some of that work he put in throughout the season has paid off. 

“I just respect the guy's work ethic and his professionalism,” said Daigneault. “He puts in the extra work. His solution is always more work and putting his head down. And anytime somebody that committed and is willing to persevere and plow through adversity with work ethic. We respect that and so when he has success on the other side of that it's good to see and deserved.”

“It feels great for sure,” Maledon said referring to seeing his work pay off. “You always want to be ready for your opportunity, so you prepare yourself for it. I felt like I did a good job on that, and I was able to take advantage of it when I got the chance.”

Solid Second Unit

It was the Thunder’s second unit who was responsible for lighting the fuse of OKC’s second-quarter outburst. Vit Krejčí knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, Théo Maledon went on a personal 6-0 run and Lindy Waters chipped in a triple of his own during the stretch. 

It wasn’t just the second quarter where the Thunder bench thrived. For the night, OKC’s reserved contributed 52 points as each player scored seven or more points. In addition to Maledon, Krejčí also logged double-digits off the bench tying his career high with 12 points while also logging his first career double-double pulling down 11 rebounds. 

“We just try to play as a team,” said Krejčí.  “We had a game plan going in playing them [four] days ago, we knew what kind of defense they play, and we knew how to attack them. So I think we shot the ball pretty well today.”

THE LAST WORD

Isaiah Roby on the defensive effort of the night…

WHAT'S NEXT

The Thunder will have a couple days between games before setting out on a two-game road trip. The team will face the Denver Nuggets on Saturday before heading to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Trail Blazers Monday.