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KEEPING OFF THE KIWIS

Paris Lawson

When the PA announcer called Steven Adams name for starting lineups, the cheers were a little more intense than usual. It could’ve been the Thunder faithful excited to see its starting center back on his home floor, but more probable, it was the fans who traveled thousands of miles across the globe cheering at the sight of a fellow Kiwi representing in the NBA.

Before the game, New Zealand’s national anthem, “God Defend New Zealand” was played to honor the international opponent, much to Adams delight.

“It was good, eh? I was singing along,” said Adams . “It was actually a huge honor, it was really cool to see that in Chesapeake. Really nice”

Back within in the confines of Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time this season, the Thunder faced off against Sky Sports New Zealand Breakers out of Auckland. In a wire-to-wire performance, the Thunder held off the Breakers to the tune of a 110 to 84 victory.

Thunder fans got a glimpse of Steven Adams going for three, but this time the old-fashioned way with an “and-one” finish on the opening play of the game. A Chris Paul, Steven Adams pick-and-roll resulted in Adams slicing through the lane and finishing with contact at the rim.

The traditional three-point game wasn’t coming easy for either squad. At the end of the first half, the Thunder was shooting a 21.4 percent clip from three and yet found themselves ahead 62-35. This came as a result of a focused response on the defensive end. After Tuesday’s game against Dallas where the Thunder allowed 50 three-point attempts, head coach, Billy Donovan wanted to see his team ramp things up on the defensive end. The Thunder responded by holding the Breakers to eight three pointers on 27 attempts on the evening.

“I thought the defensive effort was good. Coach emphasized things before the game and during halftime and I think we went out and we executed what he asked us to do. So, I was very excited with our defensive effort,” said Bazley who appeared in the starting lineup.

The defensive intensity continued all the way down the bench which propelled to offensive opportunities at the rim. By the end of the first half, all 10 players who played had scored. Helping to stretch the Thunder lead even further players like Mike Muscala, Adbel Nader, Deonte Burton and Justin Patton all saw significant minutes. Head coach, Billy Donovan noted that the production from the bench played a significant role in the Thunder’s ability to pull ahead.

“I thought we got off to a little bit of a slow start and I thought when we got to the bench, the bench came in and really gave us some energy and kind of opened things up for us,” said Donovan. Leading the production off the bench was Hamidou Diallo who finished with 16 points and six rebounds. Mike Muscala also had an efficient showing with 10 points in 12 minutes and cashing in two three pointers. From the starting squad, the Thunder saw another strong performance from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Steven Adams who finished the game with 18 and 19 points respectively.

“I think we’re in a good spot. Guys work really hard so I feel like we’re on the right track,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I’m not really surprised with anything. I feel like we have a group of guys that are talented, hungry, and competitive, so we’re in a good spot.”

The Thunder will travel to Dallas to take on the Mavericks on Monday at 7:30 p.m CT. Watch the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma.

"The bench came in and really gave us some energy and kind of opened things up for us."Coach Donovan