Balanced Scoring and a Dominant Third Quarter
Lift Thunder Past Nets
Game Recap: Thunder 129, Nets 116
Three Thunder players recorded season-highs and six players scored in double-figures in the Thunder’s win over Brooklyn. After 10 days on the road, Coach Daigneault’s team showed no signs of wariness or fatigue in its final game of its five-game road trip.
It was a tale of two halves for the Thunder. The first marked with small spurts of offense from OKC while Brooklyn built up as big as a 15-point lead. The second however, had the Thunder at the driver’s seat for nearly all 24 minutes as contributions flooded in from every single player to step on the floor.
In the first quarter, the Thunder shot an efficient 50 percent from the field paced by an incredible performance from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who cashed in 14 points in the first 12 minutes of play. The third-year guard shot 5-of-6 from the field including 2-of-2 from the 3-point line.
“I just knew I wanted to come out aggressive,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I wanted to win and end the road trip the right way.”
The Thunder may have been off to a decent start offensively, but the Nets were scorching. In the first quarter, Brooklyn shot 69 percent from the field in the first quarter which translated into 41 points compared to the Thunder’s 21. Brooklyn’s perimeter threats in Kevin Durant and Caris LeVert both dropped 10 points apiece in the first frame.
In keeping with the theme of its previous two games, the Thunder’s second unit burst off the bench to infuse and elevate the energy on the floor. It was Hamidou Diallo, fresh off his season-high 23-point, 11-rebound performance on Friday who made the biggest splash among the Thunder reserves. The third-year guard cashed in 11 points on 4-of-6 from the field in the second quarter alone while also snatching two steals.
The Thunder’s defensive energy began to ramp up in the second quarter helping the Thunder to reel in the Nets’ 12-point lead. The squad snatched four steals almost on consecutive possessions to go on its first run of the game and bring the Nets’ lead to one point with just under five minutes left in the second quarter. OKC even closed out the half with a steal from George Hill who zipped the ball ahead to Lu Dort for a layup at the buzzer.
“That's what it's about. I mean, taking care of business on [the defensive end], and then everything else will come with it,” said Diallo. “Just making things tough. You can't stop every play of the game but you can make things tough every play by just giving effort.”
The dial on the Thunder’s defensive energy had turned up in the second quarter, but in the locker room at halftime Coach Daigneault and his staff wanted the group to crank it even higher. Daigneault challenged his team to show more force and energy on both ends of the floor, bringing more aggression and assertiveness in its last game of its road trip.
“He [told us] ‘you guys got this. You guys have got the talent, you guys are skilled enough to go at these guys,’” said Roby. “He kind of just had to reinforce that and once that happened, we all just started playing free.”
The Thunder’s free basketball resulted in a 37-point quarter while holding the Nets to just 18. In the back half of the third, Lu Dort seemed to be in the middle of every play as he scored nine of his total 13 points to help the Thunder take its first lead of the game. Dort sacrificed his body on defense by taking multiple charges then knocked down all three of his free throws and then went a perfect 2-for-2 from the 3-point line on offense.
Isaiah Roby, who played 19 minutes on Sunday as Mike Muscala rested, chipped in six critical points in the second half thanks to a perfect 2-of-2 from deep. He would finish with 13 points.
It was then that the lid lifted off the rim for the Thunder and the offensive execution was firing on all cylinders. After shooting 48 percent from the field and 25 percent from the 3-point line in the first half, the Thunder dominated the second by shooting 61 percent from the floor and 52 percent from the 3.
Defensively, the squad held the Nets to just 1-of-10 from the 3-point line in the third frame and 35 percent from the field.
“We came out of halftime we kind of committed to having a different level of energy on offense and on defense and the guys did an unbelievable job, all 10 guys that touched the floor,” said Daigneault.
Play of the Game
Not even two minutes into the game, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put his deep arsenal of finishing moves on full display. Driving baseline, the third-year guard picked up the help defense of 6-foot-11 Jarrett Allen who left his man, Al Horford to slide over and cut SGA off on the block.
Gilgeous-Alexander, unphased by the help, simply faked a pass to Horford which shifted Allen out of the way enough to euro step around him. Now under the rim, SGA elevated and flipped up a reverse layup with his off hand to finish the play.
Stat of the Night129
The Thunder recorded a season-high with 129 points thanks to a fast-past offense. Three different Thunder players recorded new season-highs on the night and six players finished with double-figure scoring. Leading the way was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who recorded a robust stat line with a season-high 31 points, six rebounds, seven assists on 68 percent shooting from the field.
For the first time in his career, Queens, NY native Hamidou Diallo recorded back-to-back games with 20 or more points. After scoring 23 points on Friday, Diallo answered with 25 on Sunday on 71-percent shooting from the field. Diallo also set a career high with four steals.
Rounding out the season-high performances was Al Horford who cashed in 22 points with three made 3-pointers and shooting 53 percent from the field.
As a group, OKC snatched a season-high 12 steals which led to an impressive 21 points in transition. Playing with pace and tempo has been the goal of the Thunder offense all season and played a key role in putting up 129 points.
“I thought we just moved it. We did a really good job of playing with pace and attacking, and then sharing the ball and playing the right way,” said Daigneault.
“We’re a team that’s full of guys that work hard, are very capable, have a competitive drive and want to prove something,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “You guys see that night in and night out with different players stepping up.”
Quotes of the Night
“As a team we believe in each other and I feel like it showed on this road trip. We're just going to keep getting better and keep trying to help one another.”
“All of us across the board wanted the same thing: end the road trip the right way, get a ‘W’, work super hard. It’s been a long road trip. Just be locked in and close up the deal and we did so tonight.” –Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
After a long 10 days on the road, the Thunder finally returns to the familiar territory of Chesapeake Energy Arena to begin a home-home back-to-back. The Thunder will host the Spurs on Tuesday, followed by the Lakers on Wednesday.