Highlights: OKC at CHA
THE REPORTERS' NOTEBOOK
Box Score: OKC at CHA
By Nick Gallo and Paris Lawson | okcthunder.com
The Big Picture
Stylistically, the Thunder knew what to expect from the Charlotte Hornets and on Thursday night that’s exactly what OKC got. With a lineup chock full of big men, Charlotte’s bread and butter this season has been scoring off of second chances and dominating the glass.
The Hornets out-rebounded the Thunder by 11 and racked up 10 second chance points off 12 offensive boards, but the Thunder hung in throughout the 48 minutes thanks to some stingy 3-point defense, 22 points off of 18 Charlotte turnovers and some tough shot-making on offense, as five different players scored in double-figures.
The Thunder played its 24th clutch time game in 35 overall contests this season, as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tied the game at 103 with 4:24 left. However, Charlotte ripped off a 9-0 run over the ensuing three minutes of action, leaving the Thunder too little time to play the foul game, as OKC fell 121-113.
Nick: It was a quick start for Jalen Williams, who attacked to get fouled and made both free throws before nailing a catch-and-shoot 3 on the left wing. The bucket was one of four made 3-pointers by the Thunder in the first quarter, and the catch-and-shoot look is an area the Thunder rookie is continuing to work on in his development track. Williams ranks in the top 10 among rookies this season in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and field goal percentage, and on Thursday he finished with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with five rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Paris: Tre Mann received a ball screen at the top of the key and got a step on his defender. With the left side of the lane wide open, Mann accelerated and elevated for a ferocious slam over the Charlotte defense. Mann came off the bench in the first quarter, but continued to display the confidence and rhythm that he recaptured during his time with the OKC Blue. By the end of the game Mann finished with 17 points.
Paris: Off a made free throw from LaMelo Ball, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got the ball on the inbounds pass. Immediately, the fifth-year guard set up the floor at a transition-like pace. While surveying the floor, Gilgeous-Alexander hit the gas and used his quick first step and got ahead of his defender. It was only a few dribbles later when SGA put up a smooth layup off the glass. Though the Hornets seemed to have control of the tone of the game, Gilgeous-Alexander helped the Thunder keep the scoreboard moving with his drives to the rim and his kicks out to the perimeter for shooters.
Nick: On the layup mentioned above, Shai used a lefty inside-out dribble to blow by Terry Rozier and got the foul call to go with his layup. Gilgeous-Alexander hit the free throw to draw the Thunder back to within one point. The free throw capped off his 25th and-one this season, the most of any NBA player this year without a miss. SGA followed up another double-digit first quarter (something he’s done in 10 of last 15 first quarters) with continued attacks in the second quarter and he hit halftime with 18 of his 28 total points in the game. Shai has scored at least 20 points in 17-consecutive and in 30 of his 32 games this season. He’s also scored at least 25 points in 39 of his last 45 games played as he continues that career-long progression towards All-Star status.
Nick: Resilience comes in many forms, and in this one, a third-quarter punch by Charlotte required an immediate response. After a 12-2 Charlotte run gave the Hornets a 77-70 lead, but even without head coach Mark Daigneault needing to call a timeout, the Thunder ripped off a 7-0 response run. It started with a catch-and-shoot 3 by Lu Dort, part of a 22-point effort, then continued with a Jalen Williams put-back dunk and finished with a Gilgeous-Alexander pull-up jumper to tie the game at 77 with 5:07 to go to the third. During that sequence, the Thunder’s defense forced two turnovers and a missed shot to spur on those offensive attacks.
Paris: With 45 seconds left in the third quarter, Isaiah Joe received a pass from Mann above the left break. Joe let it fly, cashed in the triple and continued a profitable trend for the Thunder through the first three quarters – 3-point shooting. Charlotte shot at a 54-percent clip from the field and poured in 54 points in the paint up to that point in the game, but the Thunder’s 10 3-pointers kept the team afloat throughout the night.
Nick: After the Thunder’s blender got going on offense, Josh Giddey attacked and got fouled while making in a banked in runner on the right side of the backboard. Giddey hit the free throw, aiding his perfect, and career-best night from the free throw line, where he made 7-of-7. Giddey was active on both ends of the floor, snapping up rebounds on defense and finding soft spots in the Charlotte defense on offense to the tune of 21 points and 10 rebounds for his 30th-career double-double in 84 career games.
Paris: Terry Rozier finished a layup in transition that gave the Hornets a 10-point lead with 35 seconds remaining. While the crowd inside of Spectrum Center was roaring in excitement, Lu Dort erupted down the floor for a layup on the other end that resulted in an and-one opportunity and quickly trimmed down a double-digit deficit to seven with 31 seconds left on the game clock.
“They had 66 points in the paint tonight and I thought a lot of what they got was sustainable. A lot of why we've had some success lately, defensively especially, has been because of our ability to protect the paint and we certainly didn't do that well enough tonight.
We have to understand who we want to connect to every night. The best teams have stone cold habits and certain things that they do every night. We want to be a really good team and we’ve got to work to be a really good team." - Coach Daigneault
After the quick one-game road trip, the Thunder will return to OKC for its annual New Years’ Eve home game, which comes this year against the Philadelphia 76ers. Ring in the new year at 7 p.m. CT at Paycom Center on Saturday night.