(Adam Pantozzi | NBAE via Getty Images)

Dramatic Win for Thunder

The Reporters' Notebook

By Nick Gallo and Paris Lawson | okcthunder.com

Highlights: OKC 101, LAC 100

The Big Picture

Box Score: OKC 101, LAC 100

It’s a movie Mark Daigneault has seen many times before. The clock winding down, the ball in the hands of the opponent’s best player and standing in front of him is the league’s premier on-ball defender – Lu Dort. 

That movie was on display again inside of Crypto.com Arena as Kawhi Leonard hunted for a bucket in the final seconds of the game with his team trailing by one point. Dort swarmed the Clippers leading scorer for 20 straight seconds and kept him from even getting a shot off before the clock expired. The effort allowed the curtain to fall on OKC’s 101-100 victory in Los Angeles. 

It was a low-scoring, scrappy, back-and-forth battle between the two teams. OKC trailed by as many as 14 points in the first quarter, but went into the second frame leading by two points. Resilience and poise were at the forefront for the Thunder going up against the second-oldest team in the league, stacking possessions and remaining steady on the way to a hard-earned win. 

First Quarter

Nick: The Thunder’s 19-4 response over the final 7:43 of the first quarter started with a 9-0 burst, and one particular play catalyzed the type of ball movement and hustle that OKC wants. It started with a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander attack, pump-fake and step through, but instead of taking the shot, Gilgeous-Alexander fired the ball up to Josh Giddey, who swung it into the corner to a wide open 3-point attempt by Lu Dort. While Dort didn’t make the shot, it’s the exact sequence the Thunder wants to create each trip down. What paid off the good ball movement was an extra dose of hustle, as Jalen Williams swooped in, muscled some Clippers out of the area and put back the miss.   

Paris: The Clippers shot out of the gates on a strong run offensively making eight of their first nine shots. Fueled by OKC turnovers, L.A. burst out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter. The Thunder remained poised as it always does when facing a hurdle or any type of adversity – hanging in there by hitting singles and not allowing the momentum to get too far out of hand. By the midway point of the first frame, the Thunder had begin to turn the tides by giving the Clippers a taste of its own medicine. OKC closed out the frame on an 18-4 run and held the Clips to 0-10 from the field during that span. 

Second Quarter

Nick: Less than a minute after checking into the game, Aaron Wiggins rotated over in helpside defense and saw an eight-time All-Star barrelling down into the lane at him. Sliding into position outside the restricted area with plenty of time before George reached him, Wiggins stood in and took a charge. The play was originally ruled a block and a three-point play, but after the Thunder’s review, it was overturned and OKC was headed the other way with the ball. A few possessions later, Wiggins was hovering along the baseline, staying in motion long enough for Gilgeous-Alexander to find him on a cut for two easy points at the bucket. Wiggins showed once again that even in spot minutes he can help put up points for OKC and take them off the board on the other end. 

Paris: Late in the second frame, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drove the middle of the lane and zipped the ball back out to the 3-point line where big man Jaylin Williams stood wide open. The rookie drained the triple on that possession and exactly one minute later, Gilgeous-Alexander found J-Will again for another 3-pointer. This time to take a two-point lead and force the Clippers to call a timeout. Williams was guarded by the more traditional big men like Mason Plumlee and Ivica Zubac and took advantage of his ability to stretch the floor for a couple of easy looks from deep at a pivotal point in the ball game. 

Third Quarter

Nick: Coming around a screen going right, Josh Giddey kept his eyes up and peered over the defense to pick out a pass or continue his drive. While still on the move, Giddey let the ball rise up into his right hand, and he zipped a dart across the court into the left corner where Lu Dort stood wide open. Dort rainbowed up one of his high-arcing 3s and it splashed sweetly right through the net. That was one of six assists Giddey dished out in the game, as he once again found cutters and shooters in the flow of the action and on out of bounds plays. Giddey finished the game with 13 points, six rebounds and six assists for his 39th game this season with at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. 

Paris: SGA erupted offensively in the third quarter. The league-leader in drives per game wore out the paint with relentless, hard-earned drives to the paint. In one stretch, Gilgeous-Alexander scored on three consecutive possessions. By the end of the frame, Gilgeous-Alexander posted 12 points after struggling to find a rhythm for the first two frames. For the night. Gilgeous-Alexander posted 31 points, seven boards and four assists. 

Fourth Quarter

Nick: With the Clippers blitzing Gilgeous-Alexander nearly every time he touched the ball in the middle stages of the fourth quarter, the Thunder simply leveraged that aggressiveness to its advantage by pushing the action from other players. One such scoring threat was Isaiah Joe, who caught the ball in an advantage spot and attacked downhill and hit a step back jumper to tie the game at 93. On the very next possession, Joe stayed aware and crashed over to trap Kawhi Leonard in the corner then stripped the ball out of his hands. Not only did Joe chip in 12 points off the bench, but was also a crucial part of the Thunder’s small-ball lineup in the fourth quarter to seal the win. 

Paris: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sized up Eric Gordon who had just drained a big-time 3-pointer that trimmed the Thunder’s lead down to just one point with 1:18 left in the game. With a couple of size up dribbles, Gilgeous-Alexander used a spin move to get a step and finished a short push shot at the front of the rim to give OKC a 3-point lead and force the Clippers to call a timeout with a minute left. It was the last made basket by the Thunder, but it was the final defensive effort by OKC that sealed the game. Lu Dort swarmed Kawhi Leonard who searched and hunted for an opening that Dort didn’t offer. As the clock expired, the ball still remained in Leonard’s hands and the Thunder walked away with a clutch-time victory. 


“Just fight. We've done it so many times. We know what we're capable of. We know how we want to play every night and every possession. We just tried to get to it as much as possible.” –Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

“He was trying to get a screen to probably get to switch, but I was just locked in to really stay in front of him. That’s how I made my name in this league. That’s something I'm gonna bring every night. Good night shooting, a bad night shooting – my defense is always going to be there. So I just had to stay locked in on that possession.” –Lu Dort

What's Next

The Thunder will stay in Los Angeles for two more games, including a rematch with the LA Clippers on Thursday, which begins a back-to-back set. The Los Angeles Lakers will then host the Thunder on Friday before OKC heads up to Portland to complete the road trip.

Tuesday's Photos

By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder