Thunder showed scrap and fight to keep the game within reach through the first two quarters on Monday. However, in a tale of two halves a lopsided third quarter and a red-hot shooting night from Miami led to a definitive Heat win.
There are no wasted moments on the floor for the Thunder. Every play on the court and every moment in a game is a valuable touchpoint on the Thunder’s feedback loop as it continues to grow as a unit and develop its players. Although the scoreboard fell heavily in Miami’s favor on Monday, it gave every single player down the Thunder roster an opportunity to glean lessons and experiences from those valuable minutes on the floor. Players like Darius Miller, who played in his first game since March of 2019 due to injury, and two-way players Moses Brown and Josh Hall all saw valuable time on the floor in the waning minutes of Monday’s game.
“These are great opportunities for everybody and great opportunities for the guys that are in there at the end. A great opportunity for us to evaluate,” said Daigneault. “All these guys are on development plans to try to help them move forward as players and they get to test their mettle a little bit in the last five to eight minutes of the game and we evaluate that.”
To start the contest, Miami jumped out to an early 16-7 lead in the first six minutes of the game after connecting on 7-of-10 from the field and 2-of-3 from the 3-point line. It was an early indication of the type of shooting night that the Heat would have on their home floor for the rest of the game.
Regardless, the Thunder’s second unit answered with a surge energy to tie the ball game at the end of the first quarter. A four-point play by Mike Muscala with 4.8 seconds on the clock brought the game to 24-26, but it was a head’s up play by Thunder forward Justin Jackson to sneakily pick off Miami’s inbounds pass and put up a shot at the buzzer with one second left that would tie the game at 26 going into the second quarter.
“I saw a big take it out and he wasn't really paying me any attention and so I just kind of snuck around Avery (Bradley) and went and stole the ball,” said Jackson. “I guess when you're aggressive sometimes it works in your favor.”
Miami answered with a 7-of-12 performance from three in the second frame leading to a 37-point quarter. It would be this barrage of shooting that would send Miami into the locker room with a 63-49 lead.
Once again, the Thunder found itself on the comeback trail, this time led by Thunder forward Darius Bazley. The sophomore sank a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers and capped it off with a trip to the free-throw line. Bazley also was the spark to get the Thunder’s offense rolling in the opening minutes of the game as he scored eight of the Thunder’s first 10 points and finished the night with 16 points.
“He’s played with a nice pace and aggressiveness the last two nights, and I thought he did a good job with that tonight,” said Daigneault.
“If I had an open shot, I took it. In transition, I tried to get out and run,” said Bazley. “Just focus on trying to play hard and stay consistent with the little things.”
The difference-maker for Monday’s matchup was Miami’s prolonged run in the third quarter. After Bazley sank his free throws with 7:30 on the clock, Miami answered with a 10-0 run with the help of back-to-back 3-pointers from Kelly Olynyk to put the Heat up 77-63 with 4:56 left in the quarter. That run ballooned to an 18-0 run before a 3-pointer from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finally broke the drought.
The Thunder scoring drought coupled with another barrage of 3-pointers from Olynyk resulted in a 23-3 sprint by the Heat to grow its lead to double-digits. By the end of the quarter, Miami outscored the Thunder 28-17 and went into the fourth quarter with a comfortable 91-66 lead.
“Miscommunication. We kind of put ourselves in a hole to start the game which kind of set us back a little bit,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. “Just miscommunication and not bringing that energy defensively. Against a team like this, they’ll make you pay for it every time and they did tonight.”
Play of the Game
The Thunder’s second unit has been a consistent spark of energy for OKC in all six of its games this season. Leading the charge for the second unit is Hamidou Diallo who scored nine points on a perfect 3-for-3 from the field. In one of his highlight-worthy baskets, he used his explosive hang time to split two defenders in mid-air and finish a reverse layup with contact.
Stat of the Night47
The 3-point line caused the most damage on Monday. Miami shot 47 percent from deep on 16-of-34 attempts to end the game. In the first half however, the Heat shot at a hyper-efficient 57.9-percent clip from behind the arc. Although the Thunder worked to generate quality looks from the 3-point line, OKC struggled to find consistency as it shot just 27 percent on the night.
Quotes of the Night
“One of the things that Coach (Mark Daigneault) and the coaching staff preach - moving on, learning from mistakes and getting better for them. Whether that be the next play, the next day, the next week – always try to get better.” –Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
“We want to be a team that plays 48 minutes and obviously the scoreboard was lopsided tonight. We didn't have a chance to win the game, but we still had a chance to sharpen our blade, work on our game and build our identity and I thought those guys did a great job of that.”
The Thunder will have little time to dwell as it continues on its five-game road trip. On Wednesday, the Thunder will get a second shot to take on New Orleans in the Big Easy before jetting off to the east coast to wrap up the road trip with the Knicks and the Nets.