The Big Picture
The Thunder put on a show in its first City Night of the season. Sporting its new ice-white 2021-22 City Edition uniforms, the team rallied back from down 18 points to log its fourth consecutive win thanks to a massive steal and score by Lu Dort in the final seconds. The group’s 105-103 win marks the fourth victory this season where the Thunder has overcome a deficit of 16 or more points.
Moments from the 48
Dort’s Big Moment With the score knotted up 103-103 with just 25 seconds left in the contest, Sacramento had possession of the ball with every intention to hold for the last possession. However, as the clock hit five seconds, De’Aaron Fox attempted a crossover while being guarded by OKC’s defensive juggernaut Lu Dort. With a quick swipe, Dort snatched the ball away from Fox and exploded in the opposite direction where he finished the layup to take the lead with 1.7 seconds remaining in the contest.
“I was just trying to stay in front of him,” said Dort. “I didn’t really move my hands much. He just kind of lost the ball and I took it. Then I had to go up strong. I knew there wasn’t that much time left and I had to go finish so that’s what I did.”
"He's just a monster,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “That play is just will. He just willed the steal and willed the layup. He's got some heart."
The crowd inside Paycom Center erupted in a collective, deafening roar of elation. Among those cheering on the third-year wing was someone who was watching with more pride than the rest: Dort’s mom. His mother, Erline Mortel who still resides in Montreal, was able to attend her son’s game in person for the very first time in his career and watch him not only finish the game-winning play, but also log 22 points – including three, strong and-one opportunities.
“It felt great,” said Dort. “We've been through so much and today she was here to enjoy me having a game where it's just so big and I'm just happy she’s here and got to enjoy some good time watching OKC.”
Another Big Comeback Four out of the Thunder’s five wins this season have now come after trailing 16 or more points. Against the Kings, the Thunder fell behind by 18 points in the third quarter after Sacramento ignited on a 10-0 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by Chimezie Metu and ended with a mid-range jumper by Fox.
The Thunder responded strongly with a 12-2 run of its own that was sparked by a pair of 3-pointers by Darius Bazley and a series of dazzling passes from Aleksej Pokuševski. In the third frame alone, Bazley racked up 10 points on a perfect 4-for-4 from the field.
The Thunder cut it to nine points heading into the fourth quarter and by that point, the Thunder’s defense had found its stride. Sacramento shot just 1-of-9 from deep in the final frame along with a mere 27 percent clip from the field. Meanwhile, the Thunder shot 52 percent and received massive contributions from its second unit in Mike Muscala, Tre Mann and Kenrich Williams who combined for 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the fourth.
“It always starts at the defensive end for us,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “We get stops we give ourselves a chance to get back in the game and give ourselves chance for the ball to start dropping eventually and it's worked out a couple of times this season.”
Career Nights for the Rookies Midway through the fourth quarter, it was Thunder rookie Tre Mann’s 3-pointer that gave the Thunder its very first lead of the game, but it was his energy and hustle that left him in the game for 11 minutes in the fourth quarter. The rookie guard logged a career-high 12 points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting from the field for the night. After a stint with the Thunder’s G-League affiliate OKC Blue, the rookie returned to action and has recorded a total of 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting over the last two games.
“I thought tonight he defended and competed hard enough to stay on the floor and hold water on that end. Then offensively, he got it going like we know he can,” said Daigneault.
“I feel like [the G-League] was a big part of gaining confidence in myself and also gaining confidence from Coach Mark and the whole staff,” said Mann. “That was the main thing for me going down there and show them that I can be competitive on defense, make plays on offense and that's what I did down here and they want me to do the same thing here.”
OKC second-round draft pick Jeremiah Robinson-Earl also recorded a career night, but not in scoring. The rookie struggled offensively getting the ball to fall in his direction but remained impactful in the game by logging a career-high 14 rebounds which also tied a Thunder rookie record.
Fresh Fits, Fresh Court In its first Friday night home game of the season, the Thunder debuted its 2021-22 City Edition uniform on its first-ever matching alternate court. The ice-white jerseys received the stamp of approval from Thunder players as they rocked the new threads for the very first time.
“It was so nice,” said Dort with a smile. “I was watching on my phone all of the pictures and stuff and I just felt like we looked good.”
“It’s icy,” said Kenrich Williams. “I love it. It might be the best in the league. I think so.”
The Last Word
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the team’s improvement…“We're getting better for sure. One day at a time, one practice at a time, one game at a time. That's all we can ask for. Not what it results in. We just go out there and give it our all and hope for the best, but we're getting better we can all feel it. But that being said, we're not satisfied.”Coach Daigneault on the team’s comeback effort… “We were very Thunder-ish tonight and I thought the guys competed with that kind of fire and resilience and we just got back up and just kept coming. And that's the core of who we need to be. I thought we really tapped into that, a lot of guys did that.”
The Thunder will have a day of practice on Saturday before continuing its homestand with a back-to-back against Eastern Conference opponents. The team will take face the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday before welcoming the Miami Heat on Monday.