Wizards Pull Away in Second Half
as Thunder’s Offense Cools
Game Recap: Thunder 109, Wizards 129
A sweltering offensive start for the Thunder cooled off in the second half as Washington continued their offensive push through the remaining two frames. Four players with 18 or more points wouldn’t be enough for the Thunder to split the season series with Washington on Friday.
There was a combined 71 points worth of offense on the board between the Thunder and the Wizards to open Wednesday’s matchup.
The Thunder’s offense flowed from multiple sources to start the game. The 3-point line, the paint and the free throw line that played the largest role in the Thunder’s offensive game in the opening quarter. The Thunder went 4-for-8 from behind the arc, 7-for-8 from the charity stripe and outscored the Wizards 14-10 in the paint.
“We tried to really play with rhythm and good pace,” said Thunder guard Théo Maledon who finished with a team-high-tying 20 points. “Make sure that every time we touched the paint, we made the right choice whether it was kicking it out or finishing, making the right read.”
Washington, however, found even more profitability from the 3-point line going 6-for-10 from deep including a buzzer-beating bucket by Chandler Hutchinson at the end of the frame to push the Wizards ahead 36-35.
OKC built up a six-point lead, but a 12-4 run by the Wizards brought the game back to even playing field. After the initial four 3-poionters in the first quarter by the Thunder, the source of offense switched from behind the arc to inside the paint. Going into halftime, the Thunder had outscored the Wizards 22-12 in second quarter paint points while also earning 17 points off of the Wizards 11 turnovers. Darius Bazley, fresh off of back-to-back career-high scoring nights, played a massive role in the Thunder’s early defensive disruption as the second-year forward logged a career-high five steals that led to offense for the Thunder on the other end of the floor. By the end of the night, Bazley would finish with 20 points, 12 of which came in the first half.
“I thought we had a pretty good flow offensively in the first half,” said Daigneault. “I thought we did a really good job of taking care of the ball and ball security was something that coming into the game we knew was going to be critical.”
Even still, the Wizards maintained their hot shooting by sinking an additional five triples in the second frame. Russell Westbrook went 2-for-2 from deep as part of the effort as he and Bradley Beal combined for 24 second-quarter points. By halftime the Thunder trailed just two points 70-68.
After a first half that saw 17 lead changes and nine ties, it was a run by Washington to midway through the third quarter that tilted what was a very back and forth game heavily to Washington’s favor.
In the midst of what would become a 15-1 run to start the third quarter, the Wizards left the door open for the Thunder via turnovers and multiple empty possessions, however OKC was unable to convert those looks on the other end of the floor. After opening up the game with 68 points of offense in the first two quarters, OKC recorded just 41 in the remaining two as the Wizards maintained a steady diet of 30 and 29 points in the third and fourth quarters.
“I thought we had our opportunities in the second half offensively. At the end of the day, it was a defensive problem as much as anything tonight,” said Daigneault. “I thought if our defense was a little more solid early and throughout the game that would have given us a better chance to win this one because our offense goes in and out as we know, there's some volatility to the offensive end so you got to really be able to lock down defensively and control what you can control between that and the glass and we just didn't do that well enough tonight to get a win.”
Play of the Game
Thunder forward Isaiah Roby led the Thunder’s bench in scoring with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the field. With a versatile 6-foot-8 frame, Coach Daigneault used the second year forward at the five spot to create an advantage against Washington’s bigger, traditional centers.
In one example of Roby capitalizing on his quickness, he received a pass at the top of the key from Ty Jerome and faced a hurried closeout from the 6-foot-10 Daniel Gafford. With a couple of quick dribbles, Roby got a step ahead of the Wizards’ big man and was met with a wide open lane for an uncontested dunk.
“I thought he was really good offensively,” said Daigneault. “He was aggressive. Got a couple shots go down and had good drives and kicks.”
“Whenever I play the five, I’m just looking to stretch the defense, create more space for us on offense and bring the other team’s center out of the paint,” said Roby.
Stat of the Night56%
The Wizards shot out of the gates shooting a blistering 60 percent from the 3-point line and through the remaining three quarters, only slowed incrementally. By the end of the night, Washington had knocked down 18 3-pointers at a 56-percent clip. Beal and Bertans both drained four as Westbrook and Raul Neto chipped in three each.
Quotes of the Night
“We’ve just got to keep getting better and better and seeing the positive things out of it. We’re obviously going through a tough time right now, but I feel like it’s going to help us for the future to make sure that we’re playing our best basketball and we compete our best to get our chance to win.”
“I think the way that our guys have competed, I thought we were ready to play tonight and we got beat by a better team in the long run of the game. We've had now five straight games, and if you include the Utah game before Golden State, six out of seven games that we've been really, really competitive in and that we've scratched and clawed. We've taken a couple of them down to the last minute and I think that's a reflection of our guys engagement and our guys competitiveness and the fact that we're a connected team right now.”
After the brief trip home, the Thunder will now enjoy a rare two-day break from games over the weekend. From there, the team will set back out on the road for a back-to-back in the North East that begins on Monday in Philly and wraps up on Tuesday in Boston.