Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder Avoids Meltdown to Defeat Warriors

Zachary Low

zacharylow88

The Oklahoma City Thunder jumped out to a big lead early against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night, but they nearly let this one get away. After watching a 23-point lead get washed away at the third quarter buzzer, the Thunder was able to hold on and defeat the Warriors 114-108.

The Rundown

The Thunder jumped on the Warriors early thanks to ball movement and hot three-point shooting. In the first quarter alone, OKC knocked down 5-of-9 (55.6%) from deep. It didn’t take long for the Thunder to build a double-digit lead, but a scoring spurt at the end of the period by the Warriors made it 36-27 to finish out the first frame.

With just a couple of minutes left in the half, the Thunder looked to be in control for good as they pushed the lead to 23 points. The Warriors were able to close out the second quarter with a little bit of momentum, though, and at the half, OKC led 60-43.

The third quarter was absolutely miserable for OKC as Golden State came out with all the confidence in the world behind D’Angelo Russell. Russell scored 17 of his game-high 30 points in the third, including a buzzer-beater half-court heave, which tied the game at 84-84.

The Warriors were able to take their first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter, but the Thunder quickly retook control, and with 5 minutes left in the game, OKC led by 14. At the 3-minute mark, the Thunder still led by 12, but the Warriors were not out of it yet. Golden State cut the deficit to 6 with 46 seconds to go and then 4 with 17 seconds to go, but OKC held on and came away with the 114-108 win.

Stop the 3rd Quarter Letdowns

In past seasons, the Thunder has struggled mightily in the third quarter. Far too often they have come out in the second half lacking the energy to either keep a lead or fight back in a game, and tonight was no different.

After leading by as many as 23 points in the first half and by 17 at halftime, the Thunder lacked the poise and focus in the third quarter to maintain that lead. The Warriors were able to fight back thanks to D’Angelo Russell’s efforts, and the game came down to the final quarter.

Thankfully, OKC was able to turn it back on in the final frame and walk away with the win, but against a better team, the Thunder may not be as lucky.

Billy Donovan has to have a better handle on his players. The biggest issue tonight was a lack of cohesion on the offensive end which caused the offense to devolve into iso ball and turnovers. Simply put, Donovan has to make sure guys stay focused and keep doing the things that helped build the lead in the first place.

Too Many Threes

In today’s NBA, everybody shoots the three. It’s hard to win without knocking down shots from deep, but it’s not the only way to win. For example, the Los Angeles Lakers have the best record in the league, and they are in the bottom in 3-point %.

Oklahoma City has improved greatly shooting the three ball, but that can be a bad thing sometimes. After a hot start from deep in the first half where the Thunder knocked down 9-of-18 (50.0%), OKC went 3-for-9 (33.3%) in that awful third quarter.

The problem with making a lot of threes early in a game is that players can easily fall into the mindset of only shooting deep shots instead of trying to work the ball inside. The lack of inside shots during long intervals in the third quarter realistically nearly cost the Thunder the game.

They cleaned it up in the fourth to make 2-of-3 (66.7%), but the point stands that you have to pick and choose your shoots. Just because they have been falling for a chunk of the game does not mean that has to be the default mode. OKC is at its best when attacking the paint and THEN looking for open shots around the perimeter.

By the Numbers

  • 30: Number of assists by the Thunder, a season-high
  • 9: Number of Thunder players that scored at least 8 points
  • 44: Number of points by the Thunder bench
  • 18: Number of turnovers by the Thunder

Thunder Player of the Game

Tonight, there’s not just one Thunder Player of the Game because the Thunder bench did a fantastic job, and it should not go unnoticed. Dennis Schröder led the bench in scoring with 18 points, 6, rebounds, and 6 assists in 33 minutes, but it was other guys that stepped up that really made the difference.

Darius Bazley scored 9 points on 3-for-3 (100.0%) from three and 3 rebounds in just 17 minutes. Mike Muscala, who entered the game having made just 1-of-19 (5.3%) from three this season, scored 9 points on 3-of-5 (60.0%) from three, plus 4 rebounds and 2 assists.

Hamidou Diallo added 8 points on 4-for-6 (66.7%) from the floor to go with his 3 rebounds and 2 assists, and he had the dunk of the night when he threw it down on Marquese Chriss.

Oh, and let’s not forget Nerlens Noel. He only scored 2 points, but he had 2 blocks, including one at the rim on Marquese Chriss.

Back Against the Bucks

Next up for the Thunder is the second half of the current back-to-back Sunday night against the Milwaukee Bucks (6-3) in OKC. The Bucks most recently lost to the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on a buzzer-beater, but reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has been playing fantastic basketball through the first few weeks of the season so far.

Tip-off is set for 6 PM CT, and the game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.

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