Game Recap: Thunder at Rockets - 11/29

The Big Picture

Despite a surge of offense from the second unit and an efficient 59-percent shooting performance in the paint, it was a cold-shooting night from the 3-point line that proved to be the difference in OKC’s 102–89 loss to Houston. The low-scoring matchup featured a career-high performance from rookie Tre Mann and an efficient scoring night from Isaiah Roby off the bench.

Moments from the 48

The Difference From 3 After the first quarter, the Thunder only trailed by five points as both teams shot 40 percent from the field. However, the Rockets were shooting at a 30 percent clip from behind the arc while OKC shot at just 11. This would be the theme throughout the night for the Thunder who wasn’t able to generate enough consistency from behind the arc to keep pace with Houston’s shooting. By the final buzzer, the Rockets sank 15 triples compared to just seven for Oklahoma City.

While the looks from behind the arc weren’t falling for the Thunder throughout the night, the team looked to generate what Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault refers to as “grimier” ways to score. In the second half, OKC attacked the basket and created 19 attempts at the free throw line compared to just five for the Rockets. It wouldn’t be enough, however as Houston’s shooting pace hardly diminished through the final two frames to maintain a healthy double-digit lead.

“There's a certain point where if it's not your night, and that source of offense is turned off, for whatever reason, you’ve got to kind of get grimy and figure out different ways to generate points and I thought in the second half, we actually did a decent job of that,” said Daigneault. “Obviously tonight was a tough shooting night but we can't let it drain our energy. We can't let it dip into the things we can control,” said Daigneault.

Shai Starts Strong Though the Thunder’s offense struggled early from behind the arc, the league leader in drives per game Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led OKC’s paint attack with 10 points in the first frame – all of which were generated in the lane. By the end of the night, Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 22 points, two blocks, two steals and four assists.

Second Unit Sparks In the absence of Kenrich Williams (right ankle sprain), Derrick Favors (non-COVID illness) and Mike Muscala (right ankle soreness), the Thunder’s second unit took on a different look than games prior. It was rookie Tre Mann and Isaiah Roby who provided the bulk of OKC’s 52 bench points as the duo tallied 17 points each. The 17 points for Mann marked a career-high that also included seven rebounds and a perfect 6-of-6 performance from the free throw line.

“I think he’s getting more comfortable with every game,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “We know he has game, feel and some stuff you can’t teach, now it’s just about him getting comfortable and you guys are seeing it.”

Roby had been out of the Thunder’s rotation over the past two games and up until the pregame film session on Monday, didn’t know he would be in the lineup against Houston. The third year forward showcased his readiness with an efficient 8-of-10 from the field in his 27 minutes of action.

“For him to be able to figure [out that he was playing] and then go out and play the way he did is just simply a byproduct of to staying ready,” said Daigneault. “It's a credit to the work that he's done, up until this point to keep himself ready.”

The Last Word

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on getting a chance to face the Rockets again in 48 hours… “I think we all feel like we let one slip tonight and didn’t perform as well as we wanted to, but we’ll get another shot at them on Wednesday.”

Coach Daigneault on the lessons from recent matchups… “We've played some quality teams, we've played them tough. But these last couple games have been games where I thought we left something to be desired in terms of the things we can control and it's a lesson we have to learn and we have to keep grinding it out and getting ourselves back on track. But I credit Houston tonight, I thought they outplayed us.”

What’s Next

After facing the Rockets in Houston on Monday, the team will return to Oklahoma City to go up against the Rockets again on Wednesday – this time inside of Paycom Center. Wednesday’s matchup marks the fourth and final meeting between Houston and the Thunder this season.