THE REPORTERS' NOTEBOOK
Box Score: OKC 126, IND 106
By Nick Gallo and Paris Lawson | okcthunder.com
The Big Picture
From the opening minutes on Wednesday night, the Thunder was extremely sharp. Despite coming back home from a long trip for one night at Paycom Center before shipping back out on the road again, the Thunder’s collective confidence, poise and execution of the gameplan was top notch.
Bursting out to a 17-1 lead, the Thunder totally blitzed the Indiana Pacers to open the game, then punched back in the second quarter when the Pacers’ second unit made its run. The ball continued zipping the ball around all night long and never relented with its off ball movement, on-ball quick decision-making and selfless mindset. The result was a Thunder record 41 assists (on 47 made baskets), and a 126-106 victory.
As it has all season long, the Thunder made an emphatic push in the third quarter, outscoring the Pacers by 13 in the frame, making that the 10th time this season OKC has outscored its opponent by double figures coming right out of halftime. The Thunder’s lead swelled to as many as 29 points, and OKC cruised to victory, much to the joy of the home crowd.
Paris: The Thunder jumped out to a 17-1 advantage over the Pacers thanks to a perfect 6-for-6 shooting performance from the field to start the game. In the very first possession of the night, Josh Giddey zipped the ball to a cutting Jalen Williams for an easy layup. The combination of ball movement and defensive stops led to quality looks offensively for the Thunder that the team was able to convert. By the end of the frame, the Thunder assisted on 11 of its 12 made baskets and nine points off turnovers.
Nick: Even with a 14-1 lead early in this one, Thunder players continued to keep their heads down and make the hustle plays. After a missed 3-pointer by Indiana’s Benn Mathurin, Lu Dort charged to the top of the key and slapped the loose ball high up in the air. He wasn’t able to quite get to the ball on the initial sprint, but the heads up play to just keep the ball alive ensured the Thunder gained possession. The moment of truth play ultimately led to a catch-and-shoot 3 for Kenrich Williams and a 17-1 Thunder lead to open the game. In the first quarter, the Thunder held Indiana to just 7-for-22 (31.8%) shooting, including 1-for-8 from 3 and six turnovers.
Paris: In the span of three possessions, Kenrich Williams took a charge, Lu Dort drew an offensive foul, Isaiah Joe stole the ball. After each of those stops, the Thunder scored on the other end. It was a much needed flurry of defense by OKC as the Pacers closed a 19 point lead down to just single digits in the second frame. The Thunder went into the locker room ahead 58-44 thanks to the fuel from the defensive end in the form of 19 extra points off of Indiana’s 15 turnovers.
Nick: The Thunder had to show some in-game grit against one of the best second-quarter teams in the NBA, and responded to a 12-2 burst by Indiana with a 14-3 run to close the half. With the Thunder’s 19-point lead cut down to just four, Lu Dort charged downhill and finished a hard-nosed drive with two points. On the next possession Kenrich Williams made a steal in the middle of the floor, and it led to a relentless offensive possession where Kenrich snapped up an offensive rebound and kicked out to Isaiah Joe for a catch-and-shoot 3 from the left wing. That was one of the Thunder’s 19 assists (on 20 made baskets) in the first quarter, and one of 9 made threes by OKC in the first half, including four by Joe alone.
Paris: Josh Giddey wrangled down an offensive rebound after a missed shot by the Thunder. After muscling his way for the board, Giddey patiently took a couple of dribbles away from the defense with his back to the basket. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recognized the defense had relaxed and immediately hit the gas to sprint down the middle of the lane. Without looking, Giddey whipped the ball to Gilgeous-Alexander for a commanding two-handed dunk. Giddey had been a factor in slicing up the Pacers’ shell throughout the night with his vision and quick decision making. By the end of the night, the 6-foot-8 sophomore dished out 11 assists to go along with his 16 points and six rebounds.
Nick: The offensive clinic the Thunder put on all night extended into the third quarter, when OKC outscored the Pacers by 13. The ball zipped into the middle of the floor, then down to the baseline to a cutting Jalen Williams. Without hesitation, Jalen fired the ball into the opposite corner for a Kenrich Williams corner 3.
After getting another stop, the Jalen was the recipient of excellent extra passing, scoring off a dish from Josh Giddey. All five Thunder starters registered double figures in scoring for the 11th time this season in an offensive effort that was extremely well-balanced, as the team shot 50.5 percent from the field with 56 points in the paint and 16-made 3s.
Nick: All season long Thunder guard Isaiah Joe has been ready for the moment coming off the bench, and tonight was no different. In fact, not only did Joe make an impact, he may have put the final nail in this one with a defense-and-offense sequence in the fourth quarter to put the game away. First, he nailed a wide open catch-and-shoot corner 3 from Josh Giddey, then he made back-to-back steals on defense to set up four more Thunder points. The first two came when he got fouled on a run out dunk attempt, then on the next fast break Joe found fellow reserve Aaron Wiggins for a lob. Joe was one of three Thunder players over 20 points on the night, finishing with a career-high-tying 23 on 7-of-12 shooting while adding four rebounds, an assist, two steals and a block.
Paris: Kenrich Williams snapped a pass inside to a cutting Aaron Wiggins along the baseline who elevated for a two-handed slam. With that bucket, Kenrich logged his 10th assist of the night, a career high and his second double-double of the season. Kenrich also became the third Thunder player to record a double-double in the ball game. Williams finished with 12 points and 10 assists; Lu Dort logged 22 points and a career-high 11 rebounds; and Josh Giddey recorded 16 points and 11 assists. It was the first time of the season that the Thunder registered three players with a double-double and the first time since February of 2022.
“I thought we were just mentally ready to play really, really well as soon as the ball went up in the air. I give that starting group, all five of those guys, they played with great intensity and synergy to start the game.” —Mark Daigneault
“We're definitely becoming a more confident team, becoming a more fun team to play with. We just continue to work together. We continue to put a lot of hours in and each and every game we try to focus more and more on all the little details. Definitely, we're out there getting better each and every game and just building confidence.” —Isaiah Joe
After one quick game back at home, the Thunder hits the road again for two - this time heading West. After playing 10 of its last 11 against Eastern Conference teams, the Thunder will play 21 of its next 23 games against Western Conference squads. The trip begins on Friday in Sacramento and concludes in Denver on Sunday.
Highlights: OKC 126, IND 106
By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder