Second Chances and a Second-Half Clamp Down
Game Recap: Thunder 113, Raptors 103
After giving up 67 first-half points, the Thunder’s defense loaded up, buckled down and held Toronto to just 36 points over the final 24 minutes of action. Meanwhile, the Thunder shared the wealth on offense as seven players scored in double-figures for the fifth time this year.
The Toronto Raptors had come into Oklahoma City and delivered the first punch in the final game of the Thunder’s home stand. When it came time to pick itself up off the mat, it was the OKC second unit that gave life to the Thunder, boosting the team with a 15-3 run to finish out the first quarter, turning a 14-point deficit into just a one-possession game heading into the second frame.
That crucial run happened so early in the game it could have been forgotten, but each of the defensive stops and made buckets were critical to the eventual 113-103 Thunder victory. Big man Moses Brown started the spurt off with two of his team-high nine free-throw attempts, rookie two-way guard Josh Hall made one of his career-high eight free throw attempts and then the Thunder got a barrage of 3-pointers. The first came from Kenrich Williams then Justin Jackson, playing for the first time in a week, buried two 3-pointers over a three-possession span.
After a back-and-forth second half as the Thunder tried to cool down some early hot shooting by the Raptors, head coach Mark Daigneault’s squad settled in. The Thunder held Toronto to 13-for-48 (27.1 percent) shooting in the second half, including just 7-for-30 from deep and 6-for-18 from two-point range. For the most part, all of those misses ended up as one-and-done possessions, meaning the Thunder grabbed the rock and bulldozed its way to enough free throws (21) and 3-pointers (14) to get the win.
No need to dress up the numbers— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 1, 2021
Season-high 22 points (9-14 FGs) for @sviat_10
Career-high tying 10 rebounds for @roby_isaiah
Career-high 4 assists for @jay5mula
OKC’s 8th game this season with all 5 starters scoring in double figures. pic.twitter.com/PRwr6iK7ml
Sometimes in a tight game like this one, all it takes to make the difference is a quick spell where one player gets hot. Tonight that was Svi Mykhailiuk, who recorded 10 points in a 2:43 span to turn a one possession game into an eight-point Thunder lead with 5:57 remaining. Svi’s spurt started with a runout in transition and a strong finish at the rim – a theme to Mykhailiuk’s well-rounded game since joining the Thunder two weeks ago.
“He can obviously really score but what’s really impressive is how complete of a player he is,” said Daigneault. “We’re still learning him. One of the thing our scouts told us when we acquired him is that he’s a basketball player and there’s a lot there on both ends of the floor. He’s more versatile than maybe he gets credit for.”
After a Raptors timeout and a Thunder stop, Mykhailiuk sprinted around the left wing, lost his man and rose up towards the sky as teammate Justin Jackson dropped in an expertly timed alley-oop that originated well behind the 3-point line. With the defense spinning from his rim run, Mykhailiuk then returned to his bread and butter, burying back-to-back three-pointers to fuel the Thunder’s 10-3 game-breaking run.
“I just took whatever the game gave to me,” said Mykhailiuk. “I feel like we moved the ball really well and everybody was playing really well so it opened up everything not just for me, but for everybody else.”
Play of the Game
All season long, the Thunder has been exploring Roby’s versatility on both ends of the floor. Most recently he’s been stretched as a defender – guarding the likes of Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis in back to back games. On Wednesday night, though, it was on offense where Roby showed flashes of that ability – attacking closeouts off the bounce and even scoring on a powerful post-up, drop-step lefty layup on the left block.
In the second quarter though, Roby showed off why his athleticism and fluidity can be a huge asset. Roby dribbled around the top of the arc, into a dribble hand-off to veteran wing Darius Miller. Roby dummied a screen on Miller’s defender, then pushed off and dove straight to the rim. Miller read the situation immediately and provided an instinctual one-touch pass right over the top of his man and on to Roby for a ferocious slam dunk.
“The game slows down when (Miller) is in there,” said Roby, who finished with 17 points to go with a career-high-tying 10 rebounds and 3 assists. “That play was just the result of him making the simple play, but it’s the right play. I dribbled down, my man switched onto him but his man didn’t honor the switch. I was able to get behind the defense and he just found me really easy. His game is simple and effective like that.”
Stat of the Night+29
Rebounding advantage for the Thunder on the night, the largest margin of the season for Daigneault’s group, and both the second most in the NBA this season and second most in Thunder history.
The infusion of Moses Brown into the starting lineup alongside Roby, who can play small-ball center has created a formidable front line, with guards crashing back for long rebounds. Seven different Thunder players recorded an offensive rebound tonight for a 19-7 advantage in that category for Oklahoma City. All that work on the offensive glass led to a 30-9 second chance points edge for the Thunder, which helped offset 20 Thunder turnovers in the game.
“On the defensive end, a lot of it was just our positioning. We did a good job of keeping ourselves out of rotation,” said Daigneault. “We were man to man for a lot of their missed shots and we were able to clean up the glass.”
“On the offensive end, it was a good barometer of our competitiveness,” Daigneault continued. “We just made great extra efforts and kept balls alive.”
The offensive glass is keeping @okcthunder in this one vs. Toronto. +20 rebs (would be a season-high differential), including a 17-6 advantage on the offensive glass. 27-7 edge in 2nd chance points.— Nick Gallo (@nickgallo22) April 1, 2021
Quotes of the Night
“Coach talked to us a lot about solving the problem with five guys, not just one person out there trying to make a heroic play.”
“It was a team effort. We got contributions from all nine guys tonight. We played together and really competed. That’s an aggressive, tough team that you have to play connected basketball against and we did that tonight.”
After playing its best ball of the home stand in the fourth and final game, the Thunder takes off for a west coast back-to-back, starting in Phoenix against the Suns on Friday then all the way up to Portland to face the Trail Blazers on Saturday night.