Highlights: OKC 121, WAS 120
The Big Picture
In its third out of four games on the road, the Thunder took on red-hot Washington Wizards who entered the night on a four-game winning streak. Immediately out of the gates, the Wizards took a commanding 17-point lead behind a blazing 70-percent clip from the 3-point line.
Mental toughness and perseverance would be the themes for the Thunder’s night. After falling behind in the first quarter, the Thunder rallied back to tie the game. The Thunder then fell behind by 16-points in the second quarter and fought its way back to take a lead in the third frame. It would be a back-and-forth battle from that point on that would ultimately be decided in the final seconds of the game.
In the final moments of the fourth quarter, Bradley Beal drained a step-back baseline jumper with six seconds left on the clock to give the Wizards a one-point lead. In the following possession, the Thunder’s leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sank a massive game-winning step-back 3-pointer to secure OKC’s 121-120 win.
Nick: The Thunder’s second unit made multiple efforts over the final few minutes of the quarter to chip a 17-point deficit down to just eight points. Whether it was Kenrich Williams bodying up Rui Hachimura on a drive, Gilgeous-Alexander pressuring his assignment in the backcourt to force a turnover or Lindy Waters III sprinting the floor to get into position for a catch-and-shoot 3, the Thunder’s second unit brought the type of juice head coach Mark Daigneault was looking for in the Thunder’s third game in four nights.
Paris: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ended the first quarter with 11 points as well as four assists. The 6-foot-6 guard went 4-for-6 from inside the paint, finishing through contact and logging several hard-earned buckets. Gilgeous-Alexander also made an impact on the offensive glass with a pair of offensive boards to aid the Thunder’s comeback efforts after falling behind early to Washington. By the end of the night, the guard finished with a career-high-tying 42 points on 14-of-21 from the field.
Nick: Jalen Williams went around a Jaylin Williams screen and passed the ball down low to his big man. Jaylin backed down Kristaps Porzingis, thought about a hook shot and then kicked it back out to the perimeter for a Jalen Williams 3-pointer. Those two were a part of a six-man Thunder second unit that ripped off a 16-0 run that escalated in the opening minutes of the second quarter to change the complexion of the game in the first half and force Washington punch back.
Paris: Deni Avdija attacked the paint and waiting for him at the basket was the 7-foot presence of Aleksej Pokuševski who swatted away the layup. On the other end of the floor, Josh Giddey patiently dribbled the ball on the wing – surveying the floor out of transition. Pokuševski sprinted through a wide-open lane and Giddey hit him with the ball right in his chest for an uncontested dunk. By halftime. Pokuševski logged eight points and a pair of blocks which marked his ninth game with at least one block.
Nick: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl gave the Thunder a burst of energy in the first half, then got the nod to start the second half, as Mark Daigneault has a habit of doing when he feels a matchup is advantageous. Robinson-Earl got out of a screen quickly in a pick-and-pop action, then caught the ball and buried a top of the key 3. Robinson-Earl came into the game shooting 42 percent on catch-and-shoot looks, and his footwork has continued to improve to give himself space on those looks.
Paris: SGA completed a step-back on the left wing on Bradley Beal with 3:19 left in the third quarter. The ball dropped through the hoop and gave the Thunder its first lead since the first quarter. OKC trailed by 17 points in the first quarter and then trailed by 16 points in the second quarter. All the while, the Thunder remained grounded in their identity on both ends, tightened up the rotations defensively and as the Wizards’ shooting returned to earth, OKC managed to even the scales.
Paris: Jalen “J-Dub” Williams stood in the help-side position. When Bradley Beal attacked the basket and dished the ball out to a shooter – Williams stayed put, taking a charge on the Wizards’ point guard. On the previous play, it was Williams who cashed in a 3-pointer to give the Thunder a one-point lead with two minutes left in the game.
Nick: Lindy Waters III makes a heads up play to kick the ball ahead to Jalen Williams in transition for a fast break dunk. The Thunder wants to play up-tempo before the opposing defense can get set, and Waters helped the Thunder do that in a variety of ways. Whether it was the hit-ahead pass, hustling to create a second chance opportunity or sprinting the floor in transition to space the court, Waters was a factor for the Thunder for 27 minutes. The two-way player and Norman, Okla. native finished with nine points, four rebounds and two steals in just his third appearance of the season.
Quotes of the Night
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the effort to comeback from down 17 points…
“Stay true to ourselves, play every possession like it’s our last and stay in the moment. I think when we do what we need to do every possession and just try to chip away, we allow ourselves to come back in the game. Now we’ve got to figure out a way to avoid being down that much. But we’ll take this one for sure. ”
Thunder head coach Mark Daigneualt on the resilience shown in the game…
“That’s what’s encouraging about the group of guys we have, and it dates back to previous years. Last year I thought we were on the other end of a lot of these games, but we just kept coming and it really didn’t matter what the score was, we’ve built a habit of resilience and perseverance and it’s a credit to them, but it was certainly there tonight.”
After the Thunder organization’s busy three-day stay in the nation’s capital, it will take off for the final leg of this four-game road trip. On Friday, the Thunder will play in Memphis against the Grizzlies on the way back to Oklahoma City.
By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder
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