The Big Picture
The day after Thanksgiving, the Thunder served up a nail-biting performance on its home floor taking the Wizards down to the final possession before falling 101-99. It was a back-and-forth contest in which each team led by as many as 10 points and the offensive rhythm ebbed and flowed for both sides. For OKC, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander returned to the lineup, Lu Dort posted a game-high 21 points as one of five Thunder players in double-figures and the Thunder walked away with lessons from yet another late-game situation.
Moments from the 48
A Crunch-Time Battle The Thunder led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but a 12-2 run by the Wizards gave Washington a two-point lead heading into halftime with momentum on its side. OKC’s offense got out to a slow start in the third frame as the Wizards took advantage to build up its own 10-point buffer.
A spark from the second unit and some timely trips to the free throw line brought the Thunder back within striking distance in the fourth quarter and it was Lu Dort who tied the game at 84 with six minutes left in the game. From that point on, it would be a back-and-forth battle that would ultimately be decided in the final possession.
An offensive rebound put back layup by Kyle Kuzma put the Wizards ahead by four points with just 36 seconds left. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander responded on the other end with a two-handed flush out of a timeout to make the game 101-99 with 31 seconds left. On the other end of the floor, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed a 3-pointer, and the Thunder called a timeout with 2.8 seconds remaining for a final shot. On the inbounds, Gilgeous-Alexander attacked to the left side of the floor and let fly a good look at a 3-pointer that rolled around the rim before falling outside of the cylinder at the buzzer.
“We just got to continue to focus on our execution both ends of the court,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault on the lessons from the late-game situation. “Close games come down to possessions, it comes down to details. There's a lot of random things but there's a lot of things you can control and we got to just be a little bit better obviously, with the things we can control in order to get some of these past games.”
Shai Back in the Lineup After missing two games with a right ankle sprain, OKC’s leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander returned to the lineup against the Wizards. From the outset, Gilgeous-Alexander made his presence known by not only registering a perfect 4-for-4 clip from the field in the opening frame, but also demonstrating his facilitating ability by dishing out five assists. By the end of the night, the fourth-year guard racked up a near triple-double with 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
“I thought he had a good floor game tonight,” said Daigneault. “The hardest thing for all these guys is the balance between aggressiveness and individual confidence and then inside the team and for him especially that's been something that's been ongoing because he's so talented. And I thought he had a really, really clean balanced night and I he played really well.”
“It's great. He's our best player and it's always nice to play with our best player,” said Dort. “I felt like he did a good job today just getting the team going, moving the ball. Shai is always doing his thing and it was just great to have him back with us.”
Balanced Offensive Attack The Thunder’s ball movement shined in the first half and contributed to five different players recording double figures on the night. Including Dort (21) and Gilgeous-Alexander (15), the Thunder received double-digits from rookie Josh Giddey (11), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (10) and Kenrich Williams off the bench who poured in all 11 of his points in the second quarter.
“We moved the ball, we made them move on defense,” said Giddey. “I think a lot of our offense was generated through ball movement. We got off the boards and pushed it in transition. I think that's when we’re at our best is when we're just playing, flowing and moving the ball side to side.”
The Last Word
Thunder rookie Josh Giddey on the lessons from the night… “We've been in a lot of these and we're gonna learn over time how to close out late games and although it hurts now, to lose these tight ones who grows from it. We got practice tomorrow. So, the good thing about the NBA is you can't dwell on one game. We've got a game in two nights. So learn from this, watch the film, review it and then go straight into another game.”
The Thunder will enjoy a two-day break between games before its next contest. The team will practice on Saturday, then hit the road for a quick stop in Houston to face the Rockets on Monday.