Thunder’s Patient Offensive Attack
Falls Short Against the Jazz
Game Recap: Thunder 93, Jazz 109
In its penultimate contest of the season, the Thunder returned from a West Coast road trip to face the number one team in the Western Conference – the Utah Jazz. A career-high for newcomer Gabriel Deck and an outburst from Svi Mykhailiuk and Théo Maledon wasn’t enough to overcome a lopsided third quarter.
Utah’s sharp shooting began early as it opened the game on a 14-4 run shooting 3-of-4 from the 3-point line and 4-of-6 from the field. As the Thunder revved its offense up, it was rookie Théo Maledon who put the car in drive. The guard was responsible for all seven of the Thunder’s first points of the game including a pair of really nice floaters off the glass, showing fearlessness and craftiness in the face of two-time defensive player of the year in Rudy Gobert.
Maledon’s efforts around the rim were the spark for the rest of the Thunder’s ball handlers who showed extreme patience in the hopes of dislodging Gobert from the paint. The guards kept their dribbles alive, probing the lane and dished out multiple wrap around passes under the rim to open big men waiting in the dunker’s spot.
“That's kind of what the game plan was on our part,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “Certainly be aggressive and try to make the initial play but respect good defense and if you're not in a good position, extend the play against [Gobert] and force him to make another good play. The more you force him to do that the higher rate there is of the mistake on his part. I thought we had some plays where we did that.”
After Maledon, it was Svi Mykhailiuk who came in off the bench and dropped 15 points starting with a corner 3-pointer fading out of bounds to beat the shot clock. Mykhailiuk would make two more 3-pointers along with a series of midrange jumpers to help cut what was once a 14-point Jazz advantage to just seven before he checked out midway through the second quarter.
“He was ready to rock,” said Daigneault. “I thought he really had a plan on his drives and on his pick and roll plays. He obviously got some 3s off as well but I thought he did a really good job of understanding what the game plan was against their defense and attacking it in a very specific way. I thought he had success as a result of that.”
“I was just taking whatever the game gives me,” said Mykhailiuk who finished with a game-high 19 points. “So I feel like on the ball screen or on the regular screen I think I took open shots, took the right shots, trying to create for everybody else. We're just trying to play the right way.”
Thunder newcomer Gabriel Deck added to the Thunder’s bench points with six points in the first half. However, the Jazz’s offense kept OKC at arm’s length behind the efforts of Bojan Bogdanovic who logged 13 first half points as well as a 13-6 advantage in attempts at the free throw line.
The Thunder’s offense slowed significantly in the third quarter as Utah outscored OKC 31-19. After turning the ball over just four times in the first half, OKC registered eight in the third frame alone. Meanwhile, the Jazz built up its largest lead of the night while cashing in four three pointers and eight second chance points.
The deficit would be large enough to withstand one more punch thrown by the Thunder in the final frame outscoring Utah 27-17. It was Deck and two-way forward Jaylen Hoard who headlined the attack with a combined 17 points and 7-of-8 shooting from the field including a pair of and ones. Deck finished the night with a new career-high 18 points.
“I thought they obviously played well in the third quarter to open the game up,” said Daigneault. “They were the better team tonight. But I thought our guys gave good effort in the fourth and kept playing all the way through the finish line.”
Play of the Game
As the Thunder worked to string together multiple efforts on the defensive end against Utah’s multidimensional offense, the Thunder came up with a steal in the first quarter that led to offense on the other end.
Darius Bazley sent the ball ahead to his 7-foot teammate Aleksej Pokuševski in the open floor. With just one dribble, the rookie oriented himself in the middle of the floor with just one defender ahead of him. Poku simply faked a pass to Maledon who was spotted up in the corner which dislodged Mike Conley just enough for Aleksej to glide up to the basket for a finger roll right over the front of the rim.
“That’s just Poku and how he does things,” said Maledon. “He has a lot of tricks like that so I was expecting it and that’s why I went to the corner to make sure Conley had to make a choice and Poku did the right thing.”
Stat of the Night16
After 11 straight games where OKC shot 21 or more free throw attempts, the Thunder fell short against the Jazz shooting just 16 free throws compared to 21 for the Jazz. The charity stripe proved to be a big disparity between these two groups in the third quarter as the Thunder didn’t make a single trip to the line.
Quotes of the Night
“I think it was a great opportunity for us to learn and compete against one of the best defenses in the league with one of the best defenders in the league and understand that we really need to work things on offense, move the ball and play together to get the best shot possible on each possession.”
“We're just trying to tick forward. We're trying to use these games to develop our players and understand what we have and I thought we did that again tonight.”
The Thunder will have a practice day on Saturday before closing out the season with one final matchup inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday. OKC will host the Los Angeles Clippers at 8 p.m. CT.