Game Recap: OKC 99, SAS 94

The Big Picture

It was a physical, low-scoring battle for the Thunder inside of Paycom Center on Native American Heritage Night. A slow start offensively for OKC led to an early 16-point lead for the Spurs in the first half. However, the Thunder, who most recently overcame a 19-point hole to defeat the Lakers on Thursday, are no strangers to erasing large leads. Behind a momentum-shifting third quarter and yet another balanced scoring effort, the Thunder walked away with the hard-fought 99-94 win and its second consecutive comeback of 16 or more points.

Moments from the 48

Third Quarter Turnaround The Thunder trailed by 10 points heading into the locker room at intermission. OKC’s offense got out to a slow start to the game scoring just 14 points in the first quarter. However what was once a 16-point Spurs lead had been shaved down thanks to a burst of offense from Mike Muscala off the bench going into halftime. The Spurs however, had already logged 36 points in the paint and had set a physical tone out of the gates with aggressive drives to the basket by their guards and second chance opportunities on put backs.

In the locker room, the Thunder coaching staff challenged the team to bring more physicality into the game. From that point on, the Thunder completely shifted the momentum of the game in its favor.

In the third quarter alone, OKC outscored San Antonio 34-14 and held the Spurs to a fruitless 0-for-9 clip from the 3-point line and just 7-of-25 from the field while still only allowing nine attempts at the charity stripe. Meanwhile, the Thunder fired on all cylinders offensively as the team shot 54 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep.

“They were the more physical team in the first half. They were living in the paint. They were on the glass, and we weren't,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “Then in the second half, specifically the third quarter I thought, we really got physical at the basket, had some great verticality plays, really rebounded the ball on both ends of the floor and we had more of an attack mentality on our secondary plays. I thought that was the difference tonight.”

Muscala’s Microwave Offense Before Darius Bazley answered a single question regarding the game, he wanted to be sure to shout out his teammate Mike Muscala for the contributions he made coming off the bench.

“I don't know if Mike knows this, but I look up to him,” said Bazley. “His work ethic. He comes in every day, he does what he's supposed to do, he's positive. Coach describes being a leader as doing the right thing, but Mike's always doing that. And just to see Mike and his readiness, whether he is playing good or playing bad, he always comes in with the same energy and effort and today he was rewarded for him. I was super happy for him.”

Muscala’s readiness was put on display in the second quarter when the Thunder’s offense struggled to keep the scoreboard moving, it was Muscala who stepped in off the bench and provided a much-needed boost. In a matter of five minutes, Muscala logged 14 points including three consecutive 3-pointers to help close the Thunder’s 16-point deficit down to 10 heading into the locker room.

Beyond his scoring, Muscala’s contributions extended to the defensive end where he could be found contesting the Spurs’ physical drives to the rim and swatting away shot attempts. By the end of the night, Muscala recorded a team high 20 points including a 7-of-9 performance from the free throw line and logged two blocks.

“He's one of the most prepared guys I've ever been around. When he's working out in practice or pre practice. Every shot he takes is a game-like shot. Every everything he does is game-like,” said Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. “It just shows that his preparation leads to success on the court.”

Balanced Contributions The Thunder’s offense received much-needed sparks from a variety of sources throughout the night as five players scored in double figures and six scored nine or more points. Thunder forward Darius Bazley logged a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards – his consistent energy providing a contagious boost to his teammates.

“He was really good on both ends from the jump,” said Daigneault. “I thought tonight from an energy standpoint, that was a new ceiling for him.”

It was a 3-pointer from Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the third quarter that gave the Thunder its first lead of the game. In his fourth career start, the rookie finished the game with 13 points and a 3-of-5 performance from the 3-point line.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander logged a near triple-double with 14 points, 10 assists and eight boards. A burst of seven straight points from the fourth-year guard out of halftime helped set the tone for the Thunder’s third quarter dominance. His distribution and facilitation throughout the night led to multiple teammates getting involved offensively.

In the fourth quarter, Kenrich Williams was all over the floor for the Thunder scoring four points while also logging a timely steal and a block. His seven points for the night officially put him over the 1,000-point mark for his career.

“One of the things that I think is synonymous with the Thunder is a competitive juice that's at you and putting teams on their heels, with a mentality and with a physicality. I thought we captured that there in the second half tonight,” said Daigneault. “There were a ton of guys that were all over the floor and I just thought collectively as a team, the competitive level we went to in the second half was really impressive.

Another MidFirst Bank Half-Court Winner For the second time in a matter of four home games, a Thunder fan has drained the MidFirst Bank Half-Court shot for $20,000. Spencer Green, an 18-year-old from Norman, Oklahoma, banked in the shot from half court and was met with the approving roar of the Thunder fans inside of Paycom Center.

Special Guests in the Building To celebrate Native American Heritage night inside Paycom Center on Sunday, the Thunder hosted members of the all Indigenous cast and crew from the TV series Reservation Dogs. The critically acclaimed FX on Hulu show is set and filmed in Oklahoma and uses humor and creativity to tell a story that resonates with Native American and Indigenous communities.

The Last Word

Darius Bazley on the team’s improvement over the last two wins…That’s momentum. It's stuff to build off of. We won but, we’ve got to get ready for the next one. It's just something for us to build off of. I think we're starting to see just how resilient we have to be, just how tough we have to be, to get these games and to win these games. I think we're going in the right direction.”

Coach Daigneault on the difference in the game… “I thought we just we did a good job of recognizing what that game required. They threw the first punch. They were the more physical team and to the credit of our guys, I thought we came out of halftime with the blueprint for how to go try to get the game and that's what we did.”

What’s Next

It was a short trip to Paycom Center for the Thunder. The team will have two days between contests before hitting the road to the Big Easy for its next test against New Orleans on Wednesday.