It was a tale of two halves for the Thunder on the second night of its back-to-back. After holding the Heat to just 45 points in the first half, Miami erupted in the second to not only erase its deficit but take a commanding lead.
The final result shows a 14-point difference between the Thunder and the Heat, but the game swayed in the Thunder’s favor for the better part of three quarters.
OKC’s first half defense held Miami to just 45 points going into intermission which marked the fourth time in seven games where the Thunder has held its opponent to less than 50 first half points. The Thunder were able to keep Jimmy Butler relatively quiet in the first half with just six points on 1-of-6 shooting. Bam Adebayo took a lot of the offensive load as he logged 12 first half points as his teammates found him at the rim for easy dunks and looks at the basket. The Thunder’s defense held Miami to just 35-percent shooting from the field and 28-percent shooting from deep.
“it was just our effort,” said Thunder forward Darius Bazley. “A lot of defensive positions aren't going to be perfect; they aren't going to be executed the way we want them to be all the time but I think our effort really made up for it. I don't think we were giving them a lot of clean three point looks on the first half.”
On the other end, the Thunder’s offense generated the looks it wanted despite the fact that the Heat worked to clog the lane defensively. It took a display of selfless basketball where players moved and cut without the ball as their teammates found them. It also took some ultra-crafty plays from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who didn’t allow the paint-clogging tactics of Miami to stifle his early offense as he went into the half with 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
“I thought we were pretty good in the first half and I thought we actually we could have had bigger lead than we did,” said Daigneault. “I thought we really outplayed him in that half.”
“Just take what the defense gives us,” said Gilgeous-Alexander who finished with a game-high 27 points. “If they switch one to five, most likely their big guys are gonna eventually end up switching on our guards and driving those gaps, making the next play and really just playing together.”
After a quiet first half, Miami’s offense surged in the third quarter to the tune of 34 points to take its first lead since the first frame. After just posting nine points in the entire first half, Jimmy Butler recorded nine in the third frame alone to jump start Miami’s efforts with the help of five made free throws. Miami’s lead suddenly jumped up to seven in the third quarter.
After a massive bucket by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to end the third quarter, the Thunder only trailed by two going into the final frame. However, Miami would open up on a massive 15-0 run that would bolster its lead to double-digits. A string of turnovers and missed looks at the rim kept the Thunder scoreless for the first six minutes of the quarter while Miami found its offensive rhythm behind Duncan Robinson who cashed in 13 fourth-quarter points behind three of his six made 3-pointers on the night.
“I just think we ran out of gas a little bit in the second half,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “Obviously they're really good team. They play to a high standard for a full game, and against a team like that, it’s going to take 48 minutes of good basketball on both ends of the floor and doing the right thing to get a W, and I don't think we did enough of it tonight.”
Play of the Game
It was the bucket by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the end of the third quarter that warranted its own spotlight. All eyes were on the Thunder’s rising star as he stood atop the key with the clock winding down. In a flash, SGA attacked his first defender in Strus. Once in the lane, Gilgeous-Alexander was met with two Miami defenders in mid-air determined to stymie the guard’s ability to finish at the rim – to no avail.
Shai elevated but brought the ball under the outstretched arms of Andre Iguodala and Bam Adebayo with still enough hangtime to finish the play off the glass.
“I just wanted to make a play,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I made a 3 on the same guy and I knew he would be pressing up a little bit. So I created some space, hesitated and tried to get in the lane. Then, just tried to go into someone stopped me.”
Stat of the Night17
After a showing of consistent offense for the Thunder through three quarters, OKC was limited to just 17 points in the fourth frame. Miami’s defense that packed the paint and switched one through five which began to cause problems for the Thunder in the final frame as the shots that were once falling to start the contest began to dry up. The missed shots were exacerbated by the continued hot shooting of Miami
“In the fourth quarter, we got some decent looks to start, but just didn't get a combination of getting in enough offense or getting in enough defense to kind of hang in the game there,” said Daigneault.
Quotes of the Night
“Biggest lesson tonight was probably just the full 48-minute game. Bring the same energy on both ends of the floor for a full 48.”-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander “Good lesson for us. We definitely enjoy competing against the team like them because we can learn a lot about ourselves and they just outlasted us tonight.”
The Thunder will have a day to rest before getting back to action on Wednesday against the Spurs. Then the Thunder’s tough stretch of five games in seven days will wrap up with a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday where the Thunder will host Atlanta and Denver.