By Nick Gallo and Paris Lawson | okcthunder.com
The Big Picture
Box Score: OKC 133, HOU 96
As the Thunder’s game against the Houston Rockets got set to tip off just after 7 p.m., only two-and-a-half hours remained between tip-off and the All-Star Break. Head Coach Mark Daigneault intended for his team to use all 48 minutes of that time to play to its identity and improve.
Undistracted by the break coming right around the corner, the bright lights of All-Star Weekend and a loose-playing Rockets club standing in the way, the Thunder steamrolled Houston with a professional, focused effort. The rout started early, as the Thunder jumped out to a 15-5 lead and never led by fewer than 10 points after the 3:02 mark of the first quarter, eventually building out a 42-point advantage.
On defense, OKC held the Rockets to just 33.7 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers that led to 24 points. Offensively, the Thunder played with discipline, and thrived in a collective effort. The team as a whole only attempted three non-paint two-pointers, continually attacked the paint to the tune of 64 points and got all 13 active players above four points for the first time in Thunder history. The Thunder was led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 29 points, giving him a league-leading 50 games of at least 20 points this season, including a streak of 20-straight such games.
The result was a runaway 133-96 Thunder win over the Rockets, sending the team into the All-Star Break feeling good about its ability to stay in the moment, execute and play together.
Nick: Locked in from the very start, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander helped set a tone for the Thunder on one of the initial Rockets possessions with a massive blocked shot. Houston guard Kenyon Martin Jr. attacked the middle and rose up for a dunk, but Gilgeous-Alexander swatted away the try. Both players will be in Salt Lake City for All-Star Weekend. Shai will be there as an All-Star who has gotten the job done on both ends as the only player in the NBA with at least 75 steals and at least 50 blocks, while Martin will be there to participate in the Slam Dunk contest. SGA ensured he didn’t get any extra practice on that early possession though.
Paris: Jalen “J-Dub'' Williams received a high-ball screen from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the top of the key. He used the pick to get past Jabari Smith Jr. and with a wide open lane in front of him, the rookie made his decision to elevate and dunk the ball and not even Alperen Sengun could stand in his way at the rim. The play was a part of a really strong start for Williams who put up six points in the first four and a half minutes of play on a perfect 3-of-3 from the field. By the end of the game J-Dub finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field.
Nick: The ball swung around the perimeter, through the lane and then back out top and hit the hands of Josh Giddey, who has been an offensive orchestrator in the Thunder’s early second quarter minutes all year. Fellow second-year teammate Jeremiah Robinson-Earl instinctively rushed into a screening action for Giddey, then rolled out of it quickly and kept his hands high for a potential pass. Giddey floated the ball perfectly into Robinson-Earl’s route and then the Thunder forward finished with a crafty reverse layup under the rim. For the game, his second one back after missing a couple of months with a sprained ankle, Robinson-Earl finished with nine points, while Giddey notched six assists.
Paris: Dario Šarić stretched behind the 3-point line and sank a 3-pointer off a kick out pass from Josh Giddey. It was the first 3-pointer for the big man in a Thunder uniform and his eighth point of the game. The new face on the roster gave the Thunder’s frontline some size while also impacting the game on multiple levels. He finished the game with 12 points and five rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting from the field.
Nick: Thunder center Jaylin Williams is coming into his own, tapping into his joy for the game and his ferocity too. Hustling back on transition defense, Williams absolutely ate up Houston’s Alperen Sengun on the glass to rip away a board. On the ensuing Thunder possession, Williams trailed the play and was ready to receive a behind the back bounce pass from Gilgeous-Alexander for a wide open catch-and-shoot 3 at the top of the key. He buried it, giving him makes on 13 of his last 23 three-point attempts, and the bucket forced a Rockets timeout. He finished the game with a career-high 16 rebounds to go with eight points and two steals.
Paris: Jabari Smith Jr. tried to whip a pass across the court to his teammate on the opposite wing, but Lu Dort snatched the ball in the middle of its path and burst out in transition. The Thunder’s defensive specialist attacked the rim and while taking on contact from Sengun, and finished the layup on the other end despite the fact that both players went toppling to the ground in the aftermath. Dort, in his third game back from injury, finished the night with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Nick: When Eugene Omoruyi scored down low on a bucket in the lane, he became the 13th Thunder player into the scoring column in Wednesday night’s game. It was the second time this season that OKC has had at all 13 active players score in the same game, and it was also an excellent opportunity for a player like Omoruyi to get extended minutes. Last Friday, Omoruyi signed a full-time contract with the Thunder, getting his two-way contract converted by the team. Alongside Lu Dort and Aaron Wiggins, Omoruyi is the next in a string now of two-way players to earn a full-time contract with the Thunder over the course of a season.
Paris: Tre Mann spent the early afternoon with the Thunder’s G-League affiliate OKC Blue in their matchup against the Memphis Hustle. He posted 12 points and logged three steals in the meeting and later in the night he donned a different uniform to face off against the Houston Rockets with the Thunder. In the fourth quarter, Mann found himself at the free throw line while also knocking down 3-pointers off the catch. It was the second player for the Thunder who pulled double duty logging time with both the Blue and the Thunder on Wednesday. Aaron Wiggins also spent time with the Blue earlier in the day logging 14 points in the matinee before adding another four in the evening against the Rockets.
“It's easy to look at the final score and take the game for granted. But I really was impressed by our focus level. That's a tough game because of the All star Break. It's a tough game because we won by a good margin the last time we played them. So, there were a lot of dynamics that we had to overcome mentally and I thought our guys really brought it from the jump and played 48 minutes of good basketball.”–Coach Daigneault
“We had to finish the race. We all came in with the same mindset of wanting to win the game. It's just fun playing with these guys and when guys have great plays out there it energizes the whole team.” –Jaylin Williams
“You have to work those guys. They're in the lanes, they play loose, they play freely, they have the opportunity on the defensive end to go make plays and they do that. So again, moving the ball side to side kind of gets them out of their positions and once you do that, you can get easy looks.” –Josh Giddey
Highlights: OKC 133, HOU 96
While their teammates get a week-long break, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams will head to Salt Lake City for the 2023 All-Star Weekend, representing Oklahoma City in the Rising Stars Game on Friday and the All-Star Game on Sunday. After that, the Thunder will head to Utah to take on the Jazz to start a two-game road-road back-to-back.
By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder