The Big Picture
On the second night of a back-to-back, the Thunder’s defense put up a solid fight against the veteran, physical Miami Heat. OKC forced a tied ball game going into halftime but wasn’t able to generate enough offense to keep pace with Miami’s sharpshooting throughout the second half. Despite its 103-90 loss, the Thunder recorded several milestones both as a team and individually throughout its roster.
Moments from the 48
OKC’s Strong First Half Miami, who leads the league in first quarter scoring differential, found itself down 24-23 after the first 12 minutes of action. The Thunder received a massive offensive burst from Lu Dort who logged 10 points in the first frame for the second consecutive night, but it was OKC’s defense that held Miami’s scoring at bay. The Thunder forced six turnovers, limited Miami to zero second chance points and had ignited on a 13-0 run.
The effort continued into the second frame as the Thunder forced an additional five turnovers while also holding the Heat to just 27 percent from the field and 37 percent from deep. Although Tyler Herro escaped for 12 first half points and OKC’s offense began to stall in the second stanza, the Thunder’s competitiveness and energy had forced a 43-43 stalemate at the half.
“I feel like we were really aggressive,” said Thunder guard Lu Dort. “We were just following the game plan. We just got some good stops, got the rebound and tried to beat them in transition. I feel like we did a good job of that in the first half.”
Dort’s Offensive Streak With his 20-point performance, Lu Dort has now logged four consecutive games of 20 or more points for the first time in his career. Dort opened up the game scoring the Thunder’s first eight points and finished with 10 through the first 12 minutes. By the end of the night, the third-year wing went 8-of-16 from the field and 4-of-8 from behind the arc.
“I feel like I just really put the work in and now I get to show it on the court,” said Dort. “One of the main things I want to do is really stay consistent with it. I know my defense will always be there every night, I’ve just got to stay consistent with my offense. I feel like right now I’m doing a good job of staying poised and letting the game come to me so I’m going to keep doing that.”
“He's a hard worker that's very consistent in his approach,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “So I think his professionalism and willingness to attack the program, are two things that stand out and so I think as a result of that, he's steadily improved and has grown through all these experiences he's gotten.”
Thunder Block Party Although its offense wasn’t able to keep pace with the sharpshooting of Miami, the Thunder’s defensive effort and competitiveness was on display throughout the entire night. Nowhere was that more evident than in the blocks column. For the night, OKC swatted away a season-high 10 blocks and it was Thunder forward Darius Bazley who was responsible for half of the team’s total as he set a career high with five on his own.
“Baze has all the makings to be a really good defender. He already is a really good defender, like one of the best in the league,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. “We expect that from him every night. We think he can be a really good defender in this NBA. We have a guy like Lu, and with him and Baze on the floor at the same time can really cause havoc, now and in the future."
Poku’s Efficient Minutes With the clock expiring in the third quarter, the ball was in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s hands. For the entire night, Miami committed multiple bodies to the Thunder’s leading scorer and Gilgeous-Alexander recognized another double team heading his direction with 10 seconds left in the frame. Without skipping a beat, SGA whipped a pass to his left to the open hands of Aleksej Pokuševski who drained a 27-footer as the clock expired.
The bucket helped close what was a 14-point Miami lead down to just seven heading into the fourth. The basket also marked the seventh straight point for Pokuševski in the third quarter who went 3-for-3 from the field including a pair of back-to-back dunks to light the end-of-quarter Thunder run. By the end of the night, Pokuševski logged a season-high 11 points on an efficient 5-of-6 from the field in 16 minutes of action.
“He was ready to go coming out of halftime,” said Daigneault. “That's how we need him to play when he's out there. I thought he got the car on the road there. He didn't have a great first half and then responded really well and gave us really good minutes during that third quarter and into the fourth.”
JRE’s Career Night Thunder rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl stepped into his seventh career start for the Thunder and put his versatility at the center position on display. After a stretch of games where his shot wasn’t falling from the 3-point line, the rookie sank four of six looks from behind the arc against the Heat. By the end of the night, Robinson-Earl logged a new career high with 16 points.
“In today's League, you have to be able to stretch the floor and just be able to do multiple things out there and be versatile,” said Robinson-Earl. “There might be games, my last few games I wasn’t making shots, but just still coming out and just trusting every single night. So just keep trusting in the work that I do and to stay confident.
The Last Word
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the takeaways from the game…“Every night is a learning experience, win, lose or draw. Nobody's perfect. No team is perfect, and just like when we win or when we lose big or when we lose small, we're gonna learn from the experience and this is a game we'll learn from as well.”
The Thunder will have a day off from practice before wrapping up its four-game home stand with a matchup against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. From there, the Thunder will head out on a three-game, east coast road trip that begins in Milwaukee on Friday.