The Thunder Lowdown | Game #30: Shai Leads, Bench Shines in Win at Cleveland

The Oklahoma City Thunder trailed early on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but it didn’t last for long as OKC took a lead late in the first quarter and never looked back. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paced the Thunder with game-highs in scoring (31 points) and assists (9) to lead OKC to a 117-101 win away from home.

Bench Keeps Bringing the Energy

Midway through the first quarter, the Thunder trailed the Cavs 20-10. The offense was stagnant, the defense lacked urgency, and Cleveland was taking full advantage. The deficit didn’t last for long, however, as the Thunder bench trickled into the game and quickly turned the flow of the game around.

OKC went on a 21-8 run over the course of the final 5 minutes and some change of the first quarter, and from that point forward, the Thunder was in control, and it was primarily due to the bench coming in and bringing the energy for a quick turnaround.

Hamidou Diallo led OKC’s bench with 15 points, Mike Muscala added 13 of his own, Kenrich Williams had 8 points, and Isaiah Roby had 6 to bring the Thunder’s bench scoring total to 42. Meanwhile, Cleveland finished with just 9 bench points. OKC has had varied success from their bench over the last decade or so, but this season, the second unit has continually brought the energy needed to keep the Thunder in the game.

What’s with Bazley?

Just because OKC gets a win doesn’t mean everything went perfectly according to plan. For example, Darius Bazley was not great, and that seems to be a trend as of late.

“The Paid Intern” is one of my favorite Thunder players, and after the jump that he made in the NBA’s Bubble at Disney World back in August, who could blame me? He’s only 20 years old, but he has so much potential. Unfortunately, Bazley hasn’t really played like it in a while.

Tonight, he finished with just 4 points on 2-of-7 (28.6%) from the field, 7 rebounds, an assist, and a steal. Those aren’t exactly eye-popping numbers. Just two days ago against the Bucks in Milwaukee he finished with just 6 points, 5 rebounds, and a steal.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s had some solid nights, as well. Last week he had a 3-game stretch where he averaged 16.7 points , 6.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and a steal. Even then, though, he shot just 44.2% from the field, including 31.8% from downtown.

The more I watch him, the more I feel like he’s lacking confidence. I don’t know if that’s really it, though. It could be a sophomore slump, or it could just be a recent funk, I don’t know, but I hope he gets out of it soon.

Thunder Unsung Hero of the Game

Kenrich Williams, aka Kenny Hustle, has become a fan favorite because of the vibe that he brings off the bench. He carries an energy that is often unmatched, and it is evident every time he steps on the court, even when it doesn’t show up in the box score.

Tonight, Williams finished with 8 points and 3 rebounds, but it was his team-leading 4 steals that garners tonight’s award for Thunder Unsung Hero of the Game. His efforts on defense helped OKC get right back into the game early, and for that, we applaud him.

Heat at Home

After a short road trip, the Thunder now returns home to Chesapeake Energy Arena where they will host the Miami Heat for the second game of a back-to-back.

This is the second matchup of the season, and hopefully this one has a different ending. On January 4th, the Heat throttled the Thunder in Miami 118-90. Since then, Miami has won just 10 of 24 games, and they now sit at 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 13-17 record. They have won 6 of their last 9, though, so maybe they have started to turn things around.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 PM and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.

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