Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

Resilient Thunder Earns Win

The Reporters' Notebook

By Nick Gallo and Paris Lawson | okcthunder.com

Highlights: OKC 137, GSW 128

The Big Picture

Box Score: OKC 137, GSW 128

Every game against a high-level team, particularly a veteran-laden squad like the defending champion Golden State Warriors, feels like a marathon. Both the Thunder and Warriors landed haymaker runs against one another throughout the 48 minutes, and the team left standing after all those blows would be the one victorious. 

The Thunder burst out to a 13-2 start, holding Golden State to 1-of-4 shooting with three turnovers, only to see the Warriors rip off a 15-5 run midway through the first. To close the quarter, however, the Thunder responded with a 14-2 run, capped by an Ousmane Dieng 3 to beat the quarter buzzer. 

In the second quarter it was Golden State who punched first, outscoring the Thunder 9-2 out of the gates. The teams then traded runs of 13-2, then 19-2 then 11-4 by OKC to close out the first half with a slim four-point margin. 

Caught flat footed out of the locker room, the Thunder got pushed back with a 16-8 run by Golden State to start the third, but as the game slowed a bit from its breakneck pace, OKC piled up points off turnovers and used a 25-10 spurt to regain control. In the fourth quarter, the Thunder used a 14-2 spell to build a 15-point lead, a necessary cushion but one that’s never safe against the three-happy Warriors. 

Down the stretch the Thunder continued to generate high quality offense, but Stephen Curry and the Warriors seemed to always have answers to keep the game within two or three possessions. Inside the final minute, second-year guard Aaron Wiggins communicated with Lu Dort and switched onto Curry, blocking the future Hall of Famer’s 3-point attempt, which helped seal the Thunder’s 137-128 victory. 

Observations
First Quarter

Nick: Being ready to play is one thing, it’s another to be able to match the energy and discipline of the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. Yet on Tuesday the NBA’s youngest team it was the Thunder who delivered the first punch, a 13-2 burst that got the crowd rolling right away. Forcing the Warriors into three turnovers and a 1-for-4 shooting start the Thunder was able to get out into the open floor and run, like when OKC capitalized on a Draymond Green travel and turned it into a Lu Dort midrange jumper. One possession later, Donte DiVincenzo charged into Jaylin Williams, and it led to a straight-line drive by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for an easy two-handed dunk. 

Paris: Ousmane Dieng pulled down the rebound after Golden State missed a rebound with four seconds left. The 6-foot-10 rookie took the ball up the floor himself, stopped at the 3-point line, sidestepped a defender and knocked down the bucket at the buzzer. The basket not only gave OKC 40 points in the first  quarter, but also marked the eighth made 3-pointer for OKC in the first half alone with the group shooting at a 53-percent clip. Jaylin Williams sank a pair of his own in the first six minutes, the bench chipped in four as well to give the Warriors a taste of their own medicine with a flurry of triples to open the game. 

Second Quarter

Paris: As Stephen Curry attacked the middle of the floor, he picked up the ball once Ousmane Dieng cut off his drive. Curry tried to pass the ball to a teammate, but Dieng wrapped up the ball and ripped it out of the veteran’s hands. Dieng passed the ball up the floor and initiated a fast break in the other direction. For Dieng, the play signified a positive step in the right direction as the Thunder had been challenging and encouraging him to play with more force and physicality on both ends of the floor. 

Nick: In a matchup between two of the three fastest teams in the NBA based on the pace metric, the Thunder still found a way to change tempos enough to keep Golden State off balance. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drove hard right, used a ball fake that absolutely shook Jonathan Kuminga, before he stepped through and banked in a runner off the glass. Gilgeous-Alexander hit the 30-point mark for the 36th time this season with a 33-point effort on 14-of-24 shooting to go with six assists, four rebounds and two steals. 

Third Quarter

Paris: Golden State opened the third quarter on a big 16-8 run, taking a lead of as many as four points. OKC’s offense had stalled, but it managed to keep the scoreboard moving by making constant trips to the free throw line. After just two total free throw attempts in the entire first half, the Thunder posted 15 attempts in the third stanza alone thanks to an early entry into the bonus. By the end of the quarter, OKC had gone 15-of-17 from the free throw line and the barrage of singles not only kept the Thunder in the ball game, but helped to regain a 105-99 lead and build some momentum heading into the fourth quarter. 

Nick: The Thunder came into the game with 220 offensive fouls drawn on the season, the most in the NBA, and the majority of them have come as guards have busted around picks to force illegal screens. During a crucial stretch in the third quarter when the Thunder responded with a 25-10 burst, the Thunder got a trio of offensive fouls all in the same way. Lu Dort, the NBA leader in that category with 83 total, drew two of them in quick succession against Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney, then Isaiah Joe drew one on Steph Curry on the perimeter to generate yet another Warriors turnover. As it has in recent games, the Thunder turned defense into offense, scoring 26 points off of 21 Warriors turnovers. 

Fourth Quarter

Paris: Jaylin Williams sank a 3-pointer on the right wing that gave the Thunder a double-digit lead in the fourth. The Thunder’s rookie big man racked up his third 3-pointer of the game and notched a new career-high with 15 points after chipping in seven points in the fourth quarter. In addition to his career high, Williams also contributed 6 rebounds and shot 6-of-10 from the field and 3-of-5 from deep.

Nick: Josh Giddey attacked Steph Curry on the baseline, drawing a second defender before finding Jaylin Williams on a diving dunk to the rim. On the Thunder’s next offensive possession, Giddey set up shop again on the right wing and flipped a one-handed lefty pass cross-court to Isaiah Joe for a catch-and-shoot three on the left wing. The back-to-back dishes helped Giddey tie and then set a new career-best for assists in a game with 15. Giddey orchestrated all night in this one and filled up the stat sheet in incredibly efficient fashion. For the game, Giddey racked up his seventh career triple-double, and 3rd of the season, with a 17-point, 11-rebound, 17-assist stat line with only three turnovers. Only five players this season have reached 17 assists in a game - Giddey, James Harden, Chris Paul, Trae Young and Ja Morant. 

Quotables

“There's a contagiousness to their confidence and swagger and tonight's a good example. Against a team like this you just can't be meek against them. I thought our confidence and swagger was on display tonight and that's what you have to have against them.

Where our team is, everything we're looking at is through the lens of development... We also have to understand what butters our bread, which is keeping our head down, staying in the process, stacking days, and being a team that just invests in the work, stays humble and keeps at it.” –Coach Daigneault

“We withstood their runs, we made plays on both ends of the floor that helped us do so. We're just getting better as a group and we're seeing strides. That's the only way you beat a team like that is you make strides and you get better and we're doing so.” —Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

What's Next

The Thunder hits the road for the second night of a back to back as the team heads to Phoenix to take on the Suns. After a day off on Thursday, the Thunder will practice in Oklahoma City before kicking off another back-to-back, this time in New Orleans and San Antonio.

Tuesday's Photos

By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder