By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com
Highlights: OKC at DAL
THE BIG PICTURE
Down 22 points in the second half, the Thunder mounted a massive third quarter rally to pull within single digits and set up a battle in the fourth quarter. OKC fell by a narrow 104-102 margin, but not before the Thunder put itself in a position to win the game in the final possession. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s game-high 34 points coupled with OKC’s poise and late-game execution put the pressure on Dallas with just seconds left in the ball game.
MOMENTS FROM THE 48
Dallas’ offense hummed easily for two straight quarters and built up a lead of 22 points in the third quarter behind a 10-0 run out of halftime. OKC’s offense hadn’t quite built up any true momentum throughout the ball game and needed to see the ball fall in its favor. With five minutes left in the frame, the floodgates opened. OKC erupted on an 24-7 run that shaved Dallas’ 22-point lead down to just two in the final minute of the third.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played a key role in the Thunder’s third-quarter spurt as the guard posted 15 points in the frame. Additionally, OKC’s defense forced a series of critical stops and disruption to the well-oiled Dallas offense which opened the door for scoring momentum on the other end of the floor.
“A lot of it was defense,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “When we locked our defense in in the middle of the third and then late in the fourth there, we gave ourselves a really good chance tonight and overall in totality, we guarded them pretty well.”
“Keep fighting,” said Thunder guard Lu Dort who finished with 18 points. “They got on their run, we knew that we could compete with those guys. They got it going a little bit and we just had to fight and push through.”
A Furious Finish
Both teams traded baskets throughout the final frame. After a frigid end to the third quarter, the Mavs regained their rhythm offensively and managed to keep the Thunder one possession behind. Things heated up in the final 10 seconds of the ball game when Ty Jerome sank a quick-look, transition 3-pointer to make it just a two-point ball game with 2.9 seconds left.
OKC fouled Josh Green on the inbounds who missed both free throws to give the Thunder a chance to call a timeout and draw up a game-winning inbounds play. On the inbounds, however, the Mavericks snuffed out OKC’s options and deflected the ball enough for the game clock to run out and narrowly escape with a 104-102 win.
“They defended it well, give them credit,” said Daigneault. “But I thought end-of-game execution was actually pretty good tonight in terms of just getting ourselves to a one possession game after being down for a couple times. I thought we showed good poise there.”
Shai’s Second Half
It was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 3-pointer at the 5:37 mark of the third frame that sparked the Thunder’s furious third quarter rally. The bucket also marked three of his 15 points in the quarter. The Hamilton, Ontario native went an efficient 4-for-5 from the field in the frame and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. By the end of the night, Gilgeous-Alexander led all scorers with 34 points on 11-of-18 from the field and 11-of-12 from the free throw line.
“I thought he played with great pace tonight. He didn’t hold the ball very much at all. They were double-teaming and a lot of times before the double could get to him, he was already attacking,” said Daigneault. “I thought he did a nice job of that tonight and it yielded a really efficient, good scoring night for him even though the defense was trying to make sure he didn’t do that.”
“I just wanted to be aggressive,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I think we were down big at that point and I kind of know like if we didn't turn it around or try to be aggressive right now that the game was gonna get out of hand and we wouldn’t get a chance to win. I just tried to be aggressive and try to make the right basketball play.”
THE LAST WORD
“Same thing as every night. It’s a 48-minute game. It's one of the things we talk about almost every day. Whether we're up or down, we have a standard that we want to play by. And that's why you see the comebacks. Next step is just putting the full 48 together. To have a comeback, you had to go down big. So trying not to go down big is the next step.”— Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the mentality in the third quarter
The Thunder’s road trip continues in the Lone Star state to face the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. The team will then close out the road stand with an Eastern Conference back-to-back against the Charlotte Hornets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.