After defeating the Orland Magic on Saturday, the Oklahoma City Thunder was unable to create a winning streak Monday night as they fell apart in the middle of the third quarter against the Miami Heat before getting blown out 118-90.
Appreciate the Little Things
A blowout loss is not fun, and sometimes it can be hard to find positives. Still, the job has to be done by someone, and tonight, I’ll shoulder the burden by pointing some of the minor developments that can be appreciated.
First off, Hamidou Diallo has not been exactly been a breakout role player for OKC so far this season, but after a pretty terrible preseason performance, he’s really started to come along. Tonight Hami scored 9 points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting from the floor and 3-of-4 from the free throw line, and there’s no doubt that his energy on the floor is rarely matched.
Rookie Théo Maledon did not shoot the ball incredibly well, but he continues to show flashes of brilliance with his court vision. Maledon finished the game with 7 points on 2-of-7 (28.6%) shooting, all three-point attempts, but he had a couple of nice assists that displayed his ability to find the open man.
Lastly, if you haven’t jumped on the Darius Bazley bandwagon, I guess it’s technically not too late. I’ve been leading the charge for this guy basically ever since we drafted him, and performances like tonight’s outing against the Heat are a good example of why.
In just 26 minutes, Bazley put up 16 points on 5-of-10 (50.0%) shooting—3-of-5 (60.0%) from 3—as well as a team-high 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. The more he plays, the more he looks like a budding star.
Pathetic Veteran Output
Al Horford and George Hill have played really well for the Thunder to start the season. They are solid contributors, and they will undoubtedly get looks from legit contenders, but they were pretty awful tonight.
Horford and Hill combined for 5 points on 2-of-11 (18.2%) shooting from the floor, including 1-of-7 (14.3%) from downtown. They only played 21 minutes apiece, probably because the game was out of reach by the end of the third quarter, but regardless of how much they’re on the floor, they need to be better.
OKC can hang…for a little bit
The Thunder played solid basketball for about 2.5 quarters, but it didn’t take long for the Heat to run away with this one. Give some credit to the reigning runners up of the NBA Finals; they are a very good basketball team, and boy do they know how to shoot the three ball.
Oklahoma City is going to have more than their fair share of these types of games—compete for a little bit before getting blown out—and it’s for the best if we as Thunder fans learn to be okay with it. The fact of the matter is that anytime a team shoots lights out like the Heat did tonight—16-of-34 (47.1%) from 3—there’s just no way that OKC is going to be able to be in the game for very long.
Thunder Unsung Hero of the Game
As the newly crowned leader of this youthful Thunder squad, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has a lot of expectations on his shoulders, and that’s part of the reason why he gets tonight’s unsung hero award.
Despite the blowout loss, Shai put up another solid performance in his 28 minutes of play, scoring a team-high 18 points on 7-of-15 (46.7%) shooting, 2-of-6 (33.3%) from 3, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds. This isn’t an eye-popping stat line at all, but when you consider that he’s consistently a focal point of opposing scouting reports, then you have to give the guy credit for being able to contribute on some level.
If we weren’t in the early stages of what can only be described as a tank season, then I might feel differently, but as long as he continues to lead the team by doing his part and keeping teammates involved, then I have no concerns at all about his ability to be OKC’s captain.