Thunder Falls in Slow-Paced, Low-Scoring Battle
Game Recap: Thunder 78, Mavericks 87
Offense was hard to come by for both teams in Wednesday’s defensive, low-scoring contest. A timely outburst of offense in the third quarter gave Dallas the lead large enough to walk away with the win.
All season long, the Thunder’s has hung its hat on controlling what can be controlled in each and every contest. In a game where neither team seemed to be able to find rhythm offensively and the shots that usually drop, weren’t falling, the Thunder relied on its defensive energy and effort to keep the game close – and it worked.
The Thunder’s defense was on full display in the first quarter as it held Dallas to just one make on 12 attempts. However, Dallas wasn’t looking to make a living behind the arc early on in Wednesday’s game, it was the paint points they were after. The first eight points from Dallas came from the painted area as they relentlessly attacked the rim. Jalen Brunson led the attack for the Mavs with seven first quarter points. Meanwhile, the Thunder’s offense got out to a well-rounded start as all five starters knocked down at least one field goal in the first frame.
However, it was clear entering into the second quarter that neither team was able to generate any substantial momentum as Dallas went 0-7 from the 3-point line and the Thunder put up just 19 points in the frame. By intermission, neither team surpassed the 50-point mark and yet despite its lackluster 3-point shooting, Dallas held a five-point edge over the Thunder.
Thunder guard Ty Jerome was the only player for either team who shot above 50 percent from the field and the 3-point line as he logged 13 points on 5-of-7 from the field and 3-of-4 from the 3-point line. It was his scoring burst in the fourth quarter that allowed the Thunder to finish the game strong on a 14-1 run.
ty game.... pic.twitter.com/GRgStHhEBQ— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 4, 2021
“Ty's a great player. He knows the game, has a high IQ for the game,” said Thunder guard Kenrich Williams. “It makes it easier to play with a guy like Ty, He can play both combo guard positions. He's gonna have a good career in this league.”
Despite the boost from Jerome, the Thunder’s offense only cracked the 20-point threshold in one quarter. Even still, the Thunder had itself within arm’s reach of Dallas midway through the third thanks to its competitive defense.
“I thought we had good energy on the defensive end of the floor,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “Credit to them. They did a good job forcing us into some uncomfortable situations, but I thought with the way we defended and rebounded and the energy we brought to a lot of possessions, I thought we were ready to play. We just didn’t have our best night offensively.”
After holding the Mavericks to 1-for-22 from the 3-point line, the Mavs finally caught a wave of momentum and rattled off 4-of-5 from deep midway through the fourth quarter that all began with a triple from Tim Hardaway Jr in the deep corner right in front of the Thunder’s bench.
The outburst would be part of a larger 20-7 run to close out the quarter that would all but seal the Thunder’s fate as the margin built up to as many as 20. The Thunder, who had yet to string together enough plays on the offensive end to generate any rhythm, toiled to answer the run and would play behind for the entire fourth quarter.
Play of the Game
The Thunder managed to generate quality looks offensively, but in most cases the shots just weren’t falling at their usual clip. However, toward the end of the third quarter, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander found Isaiah Roby on a pick and roll pass that led to a two-handed slam. It was one of the highest-quality looks for the Thunder of the night.
Stat of the Night165
In a game where neither team shot above 40 percent from the field or above 30 percent from the 3-point line, both Dallas and OKC registered season lows in total points as they combined for just 165 on the night. The Thunder’s defense held its opponent to under 50 points in the first half for the sixth time in 11 games while also holding Dallas to its lowest scoring second half of the season with just 38 points allowed.
“Neither team was particularly good offensively tonight, and they were just a little better,” said Daigneault. “I thought we rebounded well in the second half and gave ourselves a chance to get out on the break a little bit but obviously 78 is not good enough to win. Some of that was controllable and some of that wasn't but at the end of the day, we just didn't have enough punch offensively to win the game tonight.”
Quotes of the Night
“We just compete every night, no matter if we’re making shots, missing shots. One thing’s for sure–we’re going to compete. We try and make it hard on teams, and we did an OK job of that tonight.”
“It was slow paced, it was a half-court game, and required execution and I thought both teams played pretty well defensively and neither team was great offensively tonight, to be honest." –Coach Daigneault
Just one more challenge stands between the Thunder and its six-day All-Star break and that’s a tilt in San Antonio. The squad will wrap up the first half of the regular season on the second night of a back-to-back against the Spurs at 8 p.m. CT and will air on FOX Sports Oklahoma and on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM The Sports Animal.
“Try to win,” said Gilgeous-Alexander on his team’s mentality heading into San Antonio. “Do what we can, control what we can control and try to come up with a W. Tonight obviously didn't work in our favor, and a lot of nights it doesn't work in our favor, but we’ve just got to stick to who we are and we’ll be alright.”