Game Recap: Thunder 111, Nets 103 (OT)

It took an extra frame and some incredible shot-making by Chris Paul, but the Thunder came through this road trip with a 3-1 record after stealing another road win, this time against Brooklyn in overtime.

Game Flow

Chris Paul was so close to the baseline it looked like he might be out of bounds. For the crafty veteran point guard though, there’s always an angle. Paul launched his body backwards, the ball cradled behind his right shoulder, just off his ear, as he faded into the corner and splashed in what would be the final basket his Thunder squad needed. The 10-footer gave the Thunder a 105-103 lead just 1:24 into overtime, but OKC held the Brooklyn Nets scoreless the rest of the way for a charismatic 111-103 road win.

It was the 10th win in the Thunder’s last 12 tries and OKC now has a 15-5 record since Thanksgiving, giving the organization the best record in the Western Conference during that time span.

It wasn’t just on offense that the Thunder got the job done on Tuesday night though. It was the second game of a back-to-back, so the offense was about the last thing working for OKC early on. It was a rough first half, with the Thunder shooting just 36.2 percent from the field yet holding a delicate 49-48 lead at the break.

Nets forward Taurean Prince had rattled off four threes in the first quarter alone, but the Thunder settled in defensively as Terrance Ferguson blanketed Joe Harris and Steven Adams’ length and agility around the rim made drives by Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert turn into any guard’s nightmare fuel.

Ultimately the Thunder didn’t win the battle of the boards, but in the second half and extra frame, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s team seemed to get to every loose ball. All five defenders crashed into the lane to contest rebounds, even just to get a tip on the spinning orb to give another teammate the chance to snap it up. Adams finished with a season-high 18 rebounds, out-dueling Brooklyn’s frontcourt tandem of Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan.

It was a gritty, tenacious performance from the Thunder who played shorthanded without Danilo Gallinari or Nerlens Noel yet still managed to not only hang in there but to be the team with more energy, more pop and more points when the final buzzer sounded.

Decisive Moments

With the Thunder down by seven at 96-89 with 3:44 to go, it looked like this one might start to get out of reach with a road weary OKC squad trying to overcome a poor shooting night. As he’s done on plenty of occasions this season though, Paul revived the Thunder with some brilliant shot-making in the middle of the floor. First, he got himself going at the free throw line, knocking down four-straight from the charity stripe.

Paul then used a screen from Adams on three out of four possessions, finding his spots around the elbows to bury mid-range jumpers while Allen laid back near the rim in a drop coverage. Paul’s perfect touch brought on cheers inside Barclay’s Center and pulled the Thunder back to a tie ball game as the Thunder point guard rattled off shot after shot.

“The league changed four or five years ago. Everybody plays a drop and they give up that shot. Coach and my teammates allow me to shoot that shot. I try to get there as much as possible,” said Paul. “That’s why Dennis (Schröder) and all of us, we have a joke, when we get to the elbow, we yell ‘layup’ because that’s our version of a layup.”

All in all it was a 12-5 run over the final four minutes for OKC, as Paul notched 16 fourth quarter points and scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting after the end of the third period while registering a game-high 28 points when the Thunder walked off the floor with a victory.

In overtime, Paul made a pair of shots, but when Allen rushed up to try to trap him, the future Hall of Famer calmly made the right play, zipping it around the perimeter to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who attacked, hit a tough jumper and also got fouled twice for four game-sealing free throws to cap his 22-point evening.

“With a player like Chris that draws so much attention and can do so many things on the court, it makes it easy for the rest of us,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “He has the defense at his mercy at the end of every game.”

Play of the Game

Thunder fans have gotten used to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s creative flourishes around the rim, but that doesn’t mean opponents are ready for it each trip down court. In the second quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander attacked the lane, going between his legs left hand to right hand, pushing with one more dribble then scooping up a righty layup while getting slapped across the arm. The second year guard completed the three-point play, wowing the crowd.

Stat of the Night2

2-for-15. The shooting numbers that the Thunder’s defense held Brooklyn to over the final 2:30 of regulation and the overtime period, allowing just four total points during that time span.

Quotes of the Night

“Team effort. It’s not one guy every night. That’s the fun part about it.” –Chris PaulShai Gilgeous-Alexander “We just wanted to win and were willing to do whatever it took. We were just listening to what the coaches were telling us to do – pack the paint and contest everything.” –Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Looking Ahead

After finishing its final four-game road trip of the season, the Thunder will play five of its next six games at Chesapeake Energy Arena, starting with Thursday night’s clash with the Houston Rockets. It’ll be a homecoming for former Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and it will certainly be an atmosphere inside of Loud City that no fan will want to miss – in the building or on television.