By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com
THE BIG PICTURE
OKC battled the Wizards in a back-and-forth contest that featured 16 lead changes and 15 ties. After the first quarter, neither team led by more than single digits and it would once again take until the final moments to determine a victor. Though the Thunder fell 122-118, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led all scorers with 32 points, the Thunder bench poured in 42 points and OKC’s offense stacked up a season-high 64 points in the paint.
MOMENTS FROM THE 48
A Close Call
Both the Thunder and the Wizards are the two leading teams in the league in wins this season decided by one-possession – how fitting that the head-to-head matchup between the two squads would result in 15 ties and 16 lead changes that would be decided in the final moments.
Washington burst out to a hot start offensively and took an early 10-point lead in the first quarter. However, the Thunder responded swiftly with an extended 23-8 run to take a lead into the second quarter. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sparked the run as he logged 12 points on 5-of-8 from the field.
From that point on, it was a back-and-forth battle in which neither team led by more than eight points throughout the night. For every punch that the Thunder threw, the Wizards had an answer and vice versa.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Wizards held a slight 94-93 lead. Of the 16 lead changes in the ball game, 10 of them took place in the fourth frame alone. The Thunder’s offense keeping pace with the Wizards through every ebb and flow of momentum. It wasn’t until Kentavious Caldwell-Pope banked in a 3-pointer with 31 seconds left that the Wizards began to generate some momentum. The Thunder was unable to answer on the other end of the floor which proved to be all the separation needed for the Wizards to gain control of the contest.
“It was a good game. Both teams played well enough to be in it down the stretch. They made a couple more plays than we did,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “All in all, competitive game. We were right there, gave ourselves a chance, which is what you want to do and credit them, they went and got the game down the stretch.”
Living in the Paint
The Thunder’s offense thrived on a steady diet of paint points throughout the night to the tune of a season-high 64 points in the paint while shooting at a hyper-efficient 64-percent clip for the night. Of OKC’s 61 first half points, 42 of them came from inside the painted area.
“I just thought we were really quick in terms of our decisions with our passes and within our actions,” said Daigneault. “I was pretty pleased with our attacks tonight.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paced the Thunder in paint production with 20 of his game-high 32 points from inside the lane.
“That’s something we try to do every night,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “We know that generates the best offense for us. We’re our best selves we do so. Tonight was just a night that we're trying to get there and we were getting there. We just had to convert.”
Shai’s Big Night
Following one of his quietest offensive nights of the season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander spearheaded the Thunder offense on Tuesday with a game-high 32 points on 13-of-22 from the field. The fourth-year guard put on a show of craftiness around the basket with an array of shifty moves to carve out angles and lanes to the rim.
Standout Second Unit
Coming into the contest, Coach Daigneault explained that without Kenrich Williams in the second unit (health and safety protocols) he would be keeping an eye on the reserves to see how the group responds without one of its key role players. Before the game, Thunder big man Mike Muscala looked at the group and said, “Let’s do this for Kenrich.”
Once again, the Thunder’s second unit provided its usual consistent lift throughout the contest. Behind three players in double figures, the reserves poured in a total of 42 points compared to 37 for the Wizards which marked 189 consecutive games with 20 or more bench points – the highest mark in the league and the highest mark in the NBA in 40 years.
Tre Mann recorded 11 points, Mike Muscala chipped in 12 of his own and Darius Bazley led the way with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
“We went out there and we played hard,” said Mann. “We kind of knew we were missing [Williams] so somebody had to bring it. I felt like we all brought it extra and tried to bring a spark off the bench.”
THE LAST WORD
“It's good basketball. There's no room for complacency. In games that close, obviously every possession matters. It's where you find out the best and the worst about yourself and good lessons are learned.”— Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the back-and-forth nature of the game
The Thunder will close out its East Coast road trip with a stop in the Big Apple to take on the Brooklyn Nets Thursday at 7:30 pm CT.