Thunder rookie Théo Maledon recorded a career night as one of six Thunder players to finish in double-figures, but the Thunder was unable to slow down a red-hot offensive night for the Nets who shot 57 percent from the field through four quarters.
The Thunder recorded a solid offensive night on Friday posting 125 points, 42-percent shooting from the field with 16-made 3-pointers and six players in double figures. However, against a Brooklyn Nets team who never dipped below a 57 percent clip from the field and recorded 19 triples, it wouldn’t be enough to come out victorious.
Coming into Friday’s game Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault knew his group would be tested on the defensive end for a full 48 minutes against Brooklyn who touts the high-powered backcourt in Kyrie Irving and James Harden. Brooklyn showcased that offense in the first half after scoring 36 points in the opening frame and following that up with 40 points in the second. By halftime, the Nets were shooting 47 percent from the 3-point line and 57 percent from the field.
“I thought we could have obviously been sharper, especially in the first half when they got their rhythm,” said Daigneault on his team’s defense. “They played with a lot of chemistry and they made us pay on a lot of plays.”
On the other end of the floor, the Thunder worked to generate the high-quality shots that it values as a team – paint-generated looks from behind the arc or shots off of extra passes. Those 3-pointers fell in the first quarter behind a 3-of-4 performance from Al Horford and an equally impressive 2-2 from rookie Théo Maledon.
“Offensively we were pretty good, pretty sharp. We played really well-intentioned and generated some good shots,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “We got to the line. I thought we had a little bit of a balance there.”
Brooklyn’s offense didn’t slow down in the second half as the Nets followed a 76-point first half performance with a 71-point second act. Nine Nets finished the night in double figures with Harden and Irving leading the way with a combined 50 points.
However, the Thunder’s offense picked up to start the second half and went shot for shot with the Nets to start the third frame. Playing an integral role in this run was the Thunder’s aggressiveness to attack the rim. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo used their speed and craftiness to get to the paint either finishing with the basket or drawing a foul – on several occasions, doing so on the same play. Diallo and Gilgeous-Alexander both cashed in an and-one each and combined for 19-22 from the free-throw line. Their efforts helped OKC post its highest scoring quarter of the night with 35 points while also playing a major role in the Thunder’s win at the free throw line shooting 34 compared to the Nets’ 16.
The star of the Thunder’s offense, however, was rookie Théo Maledon who tied a team-high and posted a new career high in scoring with 24 points. In his second start of the season, the 19-year-old responded to his teammates and coaches’ call for him to play more aggressively. With an opportunity to play off the ball alongside Gilgeous-Alexander, the rookie capitalized and was the recipient of several open looks from the Thunder’s high ball movement.
“He’s very stable, he’s very solid, he’s used to playing at a certain pace and we’re really encouraging him to be more aggressive and play with more pop,” said Daigneault. “He delivered well tonight for us.”
The Thunder had the game within arm’s reach with only a nine-point margin at the end of the first quarter despite Brooklyn’s hot start. However, each lull in the offense for OKC would only widen the gap on the scoreboard as the Nets continued its consistent scoring through all four quarters, never dipping below 57-percent shooting from the field.
The second quarter proved to be the most consequential as Brooklyn scored 40 points compared to the Thunder’s 32, but the Thunder went scoreless for the first four minutes allowing the Nets to go on an unanswered 10-0 run before a 3-pointer from Dort quenched OKC’s dry spell.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit they did a good job moving the ball and we just didn't quite have it tonight to slow them down,” said Horford. “We were never able to make up that lead that they built.”
Play of the Game
Of the many and-one plays throughout Friday night’s game, Hamidou Diallo’s was among the most captivating. The former NBA Dunk Champion flaunted his high-flying vertical and elite hangtime as he drove to the middle of the paint and elevated over the outstretched arms of 6-foot-8 forward Reggie Perry. The fourth-year guard suspend in mid-air as he took on the contact with still enough time off the ground to place the shot off the backboard and through the hoop.
Stat of the Night6
Thunder rookie Théo Maledon made history in Friday’s matchup with a perfect 6-for-6 performance from the 3-point line. In doing so, the 19-year-old not only became the only rookie in OKC history to make six 3-pointers without a miss but also tied the All-Time NBA rookie record in that category.
“He played well, got hot for us and made the right play,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I think he's capable of that more often. He works hard and does the right things and the basketball gods are just rewarding him. I feel like he'll continue to get better day-in and day-out and I'm excited to see the progress.”
Quotes of the Night
“I know I'll watch film tonight and then we'll watch film tomorrow as a team and figure out areas where we can improve. Obviously based on the outcome we can improve. We'll just figure out what that is and try to do better for next game.”
-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander “They played really well offensively. Obviously we didn't throw our best punch defensively. We've got to learn from it, against the team like that, and move forward.”
The Thunder will close out January with a two-day respite before kicking off a jam-packed February with a two-game mini-series against the Houston Rockets followed by another pair of games against the Minnesota Timberwolves.