Game Recap: Thunder 108, Pistons 101
The Thunder dug deep on both ends of the floor to rise above Detroit and win its fourth straight game. High-level ball movement resulted in five players with 16 or more points and a gritty defensive effort kept the Thunder ahead against a scrappy Detroit squad.
The tone of Friday’s game varied from the usual cadence of Thunder contests. Instead of a high-energy, fast-paced playing style, OKC was forced to grind through long possessions offensively and defensively throughout four quarters. Thunder fouls and offensive rebounds kept the ball in Detroit’s hands for a longer amount of time which allowed them to stay in the game despite the Thunder’s scoring runs.
“I thought this was a really good game for us because it was a different kind of game. It was really, really physical. There were not a lot of possessions,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “It was kind of a grind-out game. We had to defend in the half court and execute in the half court.”
Early on, the Thunder looked to push the tempo in transition. Detroit, who shoots at the fifth highest clip from behind the arc, missed its first four attempts which sent the Thunder off to the races in the other direction. Long rebounds from the Pistons turned into swift transition opportunities with pitch ahead passes on the perimeter and an advantage in numbers resulting in easy looks at the rim.
“We were getting out, and we were running,” said Donovan. "I thought we were generating good shots and were attacking the paint, but when you’re giving up those second chance opportunities or you’re fouling, it really limits your opportunities to get out in transition.”
When the game slowed down for the Thunder, it immediately looked to get the ball inside where Steven Adams had a staggering size and physicality advantage over Detroit’s Thon Maker. Adams made himself readily available to his guards by establishing early, deep touches in the lane for an easy bucket under the rim. By the half, Adams led all Thunder scorers with 12 of his 16 points on 5-6 from the field including a perfect trip to the free throw line.
“Steven really established himself early in the game from the low post and that was great to be able to throw the ball to him, and they were letting him play one on one,” said Donovan. “He really made some great plays around the basket and kind of was able to stop momentum for them at different points in time during the game.”
The Pistons stayed in the game with offensive rebounds and second chance points. In the first half, the Pistons tallied eight and by the end of the night, racked up 21 second chance points. Couple the Pistons’ second chance points with career scoring nights from Reggie Jackson (28 points) and Thon Maker (19 points) and the Thunder found itself fighting in the waning minutes to retain its lead and drudge out a victory.
The Thunder’s the fourth quarter, the Thunder’s lead fluctuated between double and single digits. Just when the Thunder built up what seemed like a comfortable lead, Detroit knocked down a couple of 3-pointers and a couple of visits to the free throw line to bring the contest to within two possessions.
The Thunder’s fourth quarter ace up its sleeve, Chris Paul had an answer for each push the Pistons made late in the contest. Whether he sank a smooth midrange jumper or found a way to draw a foul, it was Paul who shut the door on the Pistons’ opportunities to make a successful comeback.
“I think it was a good win for us,” said Paul who led all Thunder scorers with 22 points. “Some games are going to be grind-out games. This was one of those where it was physical, but we held on. Right now, it’s about making sure we execute our game plan and piling up wins.”
Play of the Game
Late in the fourth quarter, the Thunder balanced a seven-point lead. Dennis Schroder whipped the ball to the right wing to Danilo Gallinari who immediately swept the ball to his right hand and accelerated toward the baseline. After two dribbles, Gallinari gathered the ball to absorb the contact from Christian Wood before he elevated and scooped the ball under the rim to finish with a reverse on the opposite side.
Stat of the Night5
By the end of the night, five Thunder players racked up 16 or more points as a result of ball movement and offensive execution. Chris Paul led the way with 22 followed by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (21), Danilo Gallinari (19), Dennis Schröder (18) and Steven Adams (16).
“That’s the reason why we’re so hard to guard,” explained Schröder. “We’ve got so many weapons who can score 15-plus, 20 points, and we’re using it very well. Everybody’s touching the ball on the offensive end, and as a defender, you don’t know where it’s coming from. Just got to keep getting better at that and keep improving.”
Quotes of the Night
“We know what we’re capable of and we know what we need to do to win. If we stick to our identity, no matter the style of the game, we’ll be in good shape to win.” –Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
“We did a great job of just staying together. They made a run late in the game, we just stayed together and executed very well on the offensive end, got stops, rebounded well, and that was the whole game right there.” –Dennis Schröder
The Thunder’s next test will be on Sunday against Boston for the third straight home game. In the Sunday matinee, the Thunder will sport its city edition jerseys for the second time this season. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m.