Thunder Shows Improvement in
Second Game of Mini-Series


Paris Lawson


Game Recap: Thunder 100, Clippers 108

OKC gave itself a chance on Sunday with a high level of competitiveness and edge to shrink the Clippers’ early 17-point lead down to single digits on multiple occasions. Despite falling by eight, the Thunder took positive steps forward in its second straight game against the Clippers.



Game Flow

While the Thunder finished its Sunday matinee against the Clippers minus-eight overall, OKC once again outscored the Clippers for the second straight game through the final three quarters.

The first frame unfolded eerily similar to Friday’s where the Thunder missed all of its 3-point attempts while the Clippers put up 36 points compared to OKC’s 18. However, one major difference between Friday’s start and Sunday’s – OKC played with the visible added edge of a team who learned its lessons from Friday and wanted to come out and make its presence known.

“I thought we competed from the jump tonight,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “Obviously they're a really good team and outplayed us by eight points this time but I was really happy with the progress we made coming out of the game on Friday, there were some real tangible things we wanted to improve at and I thought we did that tonight for the most part, so it was a net positive day for us.”

The Thunder brought that edge throughout the game to rally back from the early 17-point deficit on multiple occasions and bring the game to within single digits. In the second quarter, it was the bench who sparked the effort led by Hamidou Diallo who finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Mike Muscala and Kenrich Williams both chipped in seven points as the Thunder bench outscored the Clippers’ reserves 18-5 in the first half.

“I can go down the list and name all the guys who can contribute at a high level, so we expect them to come in and give us that that burst,” said Thunder guard George Hill. “They've been doing a fine job since the start of the season coming in and imposing their will.”

Minus its first possession out of the half, OKC scored on seven straight possessions to bring the Clippers’ lead down to five points, the closest margin of the game since the first quarter. Los Angeles packed the paint defensively in an effort to deter and limit the Thunder’s paint production. This didn’t stop the Thunder or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who finished the night with a team-high 23 points while dishing out seven assists. As a team, the Thunder imposed its will with multiple efforts on the offensive end and outscored the Clippers 66 to 42 in the paint. Secondary drives and extra passes opened up the lane for guards like Diallo, Hill and Gilgeous-Alexander to make plays at the basket.

“Against a good defensive team like the Clippers, it takes multiple efforts and multiple attempts to get what we want and ultimately, we'll get the best shots from it,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “We just got to stick to it and trust it for a full 48.”


Decisive Moments

With just under four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Thunder received a massive offensive boost from 13-year veteran George Hill who ripped off three consecutive 3-pointers to bring the game to single digits, this time in crunch time. Hill would finish the contest with a season-high 22 points on 9-of-12 from the field and 3-of-4 from the 3-point line.

“It felt good,” said Hill. “Just take advantage of every opportunity I get. Continue to trust myself and try to do the best I can for this team.”

Hill’s sudden barrage of 3-pointers forced the Clippers to call a timeout in the hopes of quelling any of the Thunder’s momentum. However, out of the timeout Lu Dort snagged a steal from an errant pass by Reggie Jackson that resulted in a dunk by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the other end to bring the deficit to six points with just under two minutes left to play.

Following that play, the Thunder missed a 3-pointer with one minute remaining and Kawhi Leonard, who finished with a game-high 37 points, answered with a dunk on the other end to put the game back up to three possessions with just 45 seconds remaining.


Play of the Game

The Thunder’s second unit showcased the hustle plays and collective effort throughout this game that helped keep the Clippers within reach. Players like Kenrich Williams, Mike Muscala and Hamidou Diallo all chipped in big-time hustle plays throughout the game.

In the fourth quarter, that lineup refused to give up on the play after a missed 3-pointer in the corner. First, it was an undersized Williams who tipped the ball up and away from Serge Ibaka to secure the offensive rebound. Williams then dished it off inside to Aleksej Pokuševski who took on contact at the rim as his layup fell short, but Diallo swooped in just in time to elevate and bury the ball through the rim and complete the play.


Stat of the Night

12

Of the many tangible areas of improvement for the Thunder’s two matchups with the Clippers, rebounding was the biggest difference between Friday and Sunday. After getting outrebounded 48-29 in its first game, the Thunder was plus-five on the boards on Sunday while recording a season-high 12 offensive rebounds compared to the Clippers’ eight.

Both centers Mike Muscala and Isaiah Roby finished the night with three offensive boards each as Roby and Darius Bazley recorded double-digit total boards.

“It was a huge improvement from the first game. The first game was kind of disappointing to watch the film. We came out really with a lot more fight this game,” said Roby. “12 offensive rebounds… it's a good number for us. I was proud of the way we all went out there and fought.”

“The rebounding on the offensive end wasn't necessarily an emphasis but I thought it was a reflection of how hard we were playing and how we were competing,” said Daigneault. “I was really pleased with the progress.”


Quotes of the Night

George Hill

“I told the guys in the locker room, when you compete every second, you give yourself a chance to win. We're not promised to win them all, but we are promised to compete at a high level and do the best we can.” -George Hill

“Would have loved to have a win, but have to acknowledge the fact that our guys took a step forward tonight and we just gotta keep improving now.” –Coach Daigneault


Looking Ahead

The Thunder enters into the back half of its five-game road trip in a quick turnaround with a trip to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Trailblazers on Monday. The squad will then take to Phoenix for a matchup on Wednesday before returning to OKC to host the Nets on Friday in Chesapeake Energy Arena.


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