Game Recap: Thunder 97, Mavericks 107
Unlike its most recent games, the Thunder struggled shooting the ball. The squad scored fewer than 100 points for the first time in 15 games. On the other end, second chance points and easy looks at the rim propelled Dallas to a double-digit victory over the Thunder.
In the first quarter, neither team shot over 40 percent from either the field or the 3-point line. It wasn’t until the second quarter that shots started falling, but they weren’t in the Thunder’s direction. All night, the Thunder struggled to knock down shots in the paint. In the first quarter alone, the Thunder shot only 4-12 in the lane and by the end of the night, 18 of 46.
“I think the first thing was we didn’t really have a very good offensive night shooting the ball, I think the last 10 games we’ve been really good and our offense has been from a ratings standpoint very high,” said Donovan. “You’re going to have nights like that, those things happen.”
Meanwhile, although Dallas got off to a similar night shooting, in the second quarter they knocked down 5 of 8 from deep while racking in 12 points in the paint versus the Thunder’s six. This was the handiwork of Luka Doncic, Maxi Kleber and Jalen Brunson who all went perfect from 3-point land in the second quarter to help Dallas outscore OKC 34-25.
The Thunder shot out to an 11-0 run midway through the third quarter with the help of a couple of back-to-back 3-pointers to bring the Mavs lead down to five.
However, while the Thunder was able to force missed shots on Dallas’s first attempts, the gave up second chance points from long rebounds. Shots like these sucked the life out of the Thunder who still struggled to maintain any type of rhythm on the offensive end.
“The bigger challenge for us was the second chance opportunities. I thought the long rebounds, the loose rebounds that they were able to come up with and get more possessions than us was critical,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “I think we were able to hang in there because I think our first shot defense was pretty good but I think the offensive rebounding was a huge differential in terms of point disparity.”
By the end of the night, the Thunder’s shooting clip from the field was only 39.5 percent from the field with Dennis Schröder leading the Thunder with 21 points seven rebounds and six assists.
“I think in the second half we defended better but still the second-chance points were pretty tough,” said Schröder. “We had a bad shooting night. It happens, but on defense we should have been locked in and getting stops but we didn’t do that tonight.”
Seven minutes remained in the third quarter. Dallas called a timeout to rally the troops after a 3-pointer from Dennis Schröder brought the Maverick’s 16-point lead down to five as a part of an 11-0 run.
Dennis and Shai have 14p each midway through Q3. pic.twitter.com/oQ8EzAvfcc— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 28, 2020
As a response, Dallas emerged from the timeout with a play for a Luka Doncic 3-pointer at the top of the key which ignited an 8-0 Dallas run to bring the lead back to double digits forcing Billy Donovan to call a timeout of his own.
The Thunder pushed yet again, this time four different Thunder players put up a bucket while the Mavs were only able to muster one in a two-and-a-half-minute stretch. This once again brought the Dallas lead down to five, but it was short-lived as the Mavericks scrounged an offensive rebound and scored two of its 18 second chance points of the night. The Mavericks rolled with that momentum into the end of the quarter and finished with an 88-77 lead.
Play of the Game
Early in the second quarter, Dennis Schröder orchestrated the break after a missed shot from Dallas on the other end sent the Thunder in transition with the advantage in numbers. Schröder halted on the right wing of the 3-point line with a defender right in front of him and reinforcements not far behind. Deonte Burton emerged at the top of the lane and Schröder motioned with his right hand for Burton to cut to the rim. When he did, Schröder hit Burton right around the free throw line.
Burton caught the ball, took two strides and elevated above the rim with commanding authority and threw down a reverberating left-handed slam that brought an audible “ooh” from the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd.
Stat of the Night37%
The Thunder shot an uncharacteristic 18 of 49 in the paint. The offense generated looks that it gets nearly every night by moving the ball and getting high quality looks around the rim and making the extra pass around the perimeter.
By the end of the night, the Thunder racked up 23 assists on 34 makes as a result of that ball movement. However, several aggressive drives to the basket sucked in the help of surrounding defenders. Instead of spraying the ball out to the perimeter, it was a tough contested shot at the basket which didn’t go down on a lackluster shooting night like it was on Monday.
“We had some number of shots in the game with a number of possessions that probably were not great, but we had 23 assists on 39 percent shooting, so we tried to move the ball,” said Donovan. “I thought we had some pretty good looks on threes. I thought we tried to get into the paint and get and into the lane.”
Quotes of the Night
“Nights like that happen. Everybody is human. It’s about forgetting about it and moving on to the next one.” -Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
“I thought overall that our guys competed hard. I think they played really, really aggressively. They gave us great effort. We didn’t shoot it well.” –Coach Donovan
The Thunder’s next two games will be on the road beginning in Sacramento on Wednesday and wrapping up in Phoenix on Friday. Friday’s game will be the 17th game in January for the Thunder, marking the end of the busiest month of the season.
The air hung heavy in Chesapeake Energy Arena in the wake of one of the most shocking and tragic losses the basketball world has seen. On Sunday, Laker legend and basketball icon, Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash that claimed the life of the eight other passengers on board including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
The shock of Sunday’s events was still fresh among players, coaches and fans alike. Individual tributes to Bryant could be seen at every turn. Fans wore his jersey in the stands. Players used their shoes as an homage to the legend either by wearing Kobe sneakers, rocking shoes that shimmered in gold, or bore heartfelt messages in permanent marker across the soles. For Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, it started when he walked into the arena with a yellow Lakers jersey peering from beneath his black, plaid coat. The number eight prominently displayed as he somberly walked through the hallway into the locker room.
“I just wanted to pay homage. He was a guy I looked up to growing up. A lot of guys that I know in the league also looked up to him. He has done wonderful things for the game, and wonderful things for me as a kid, so I just wanted to pay homage,” said the 21-year-old.
Just before tip-off, the lights dimmed in the arena with a picture of Bryant emblazoned on the jumbotron as a moment of silence was held before the national anthem. The tributes didn’t stop there. As the ball was tipped off, it landed it the hands of Luka Doncic in the backcourt who caught the ball and stood. Upon realizing the intended gesture of the Dallas guard, the Thunder faithful roared in approving applause and began to chant “KOBE” as the whistles blew to signal an eight-second backcourt violation. The Thunder then responded with a 24-second shot clock violation in the next possession. Twenty-four and eight – the two numbers hanging from the rafters in Staples Center in honor of the legendary career of Kobe Bryant.
“I’ll take that turnover for sure, anytime,” Schröder said postgame with a small grin. “It’s just to honor him, what he did for basketball, for the NBA. It’s just big, it’s not a problem for me and it felt good.”
8... 24... pic.twitter.com/7iG1LXFhaK— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 28, 2020
“(Sunday) was just a sad day all the way around with the game losing just an iconic player, a true champion, a true competitor…” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan.
Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari remembered specifically what Bryant meant to him as an Italian player. Bryant, who was raised in Italy and spoke fluent Italian would often speak to Gallinari during games in Italian as they competed against each other. Internationally, Gallinari experienced first-hand just how broad Bryant’s legacy reached. In his camp that the holds every summer in Italy, Gallinari can always count on a few campers repping his own jersey, but always sees much more in Kobe jerseys.
“It was just very tough to process, it still is,” said Gallinari. “I had only good memories about him on and off the court, especially with him having such a great relationship with my country, with Italy.”
With an impact that transcended basketball, sports and team affiliation, Bryant’s lasting legacy could be felt through every notion, play and tribute. A life and career that was bigger than basketball.
“A huge impact. The NBA is what it is right now mostly because of him. What he did, they way that he approached the game and the way that he approached his job I think is something that every young player should learn from and every young player should get is as an example,” said Gallinari. “So, it’s really tough to process and to talk about it is still shocking.”