OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Dennis Schröder has been in a slump. Dating back to December 19th when he was suspended during a game against Sacramento Kings, Schröder’s numbers have been down in just about every facet.
Perhaps related, the Oklahoma City Thunder (26-16) are 5-6 in games during that stretch. Schröder, along with the rest of the Oklahoma City bench, have not been able to do their part in helping the Thunder win games as consistently as they had done in earlier weeks.
Tonight was a welcome sight for Oklahoma City. Schröder exploded in the second half against the San Antonio Spurs (25-19), scoring all 19 of his points in the half. His play in the third quarter particularly helped lift the Thunder in a game the Spurs were controlling. Oklahoma City dominated the second half as a result, defeating the Spurs 122-112.
“I think the sign of a really good player is that every game is not going to go your way — he did not have a great first half,” Billy Donovan said afterwards. “But he came out in the second half and played much closer to the type of player he is. I give him a lot of credit.”
The Thunder’s backup point guard didn’t score until late in the third quarter. Following his first basket, Schröder’s rhythm came into full view. After an offensive rebound at the 2:27 mark of the quarter, Schröder received a pass in the corner with an opportunity for a wide-open three. Instead, Schröder found Abdel Nader on the elbow, who nailed the three. From there, Oklahoma City never looked back.
“I try to get the best option possible and find my teammates,” Schröder said in the locker room. “It’ tough. Sometimes I can be overly aggressive. I just have to try and read the game the right way and find my teammates to get them confident as well.”
The emergence of Schröder in the second half coincided with the Thunder bench playing terrifically. With 48 points to their credit, the bench played one of their better games in recent memory.
“I think a lot of times, players can lose confidence.” Donovan added. “He doesn’t at all. He wants to win because he’s so competitive.”
Speaking of Nader, the second-year player from Iowa State was a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor, scoring 15 points. He was huge for the Thunder in the second quarter where he scored 6 points off of dribble-drive penetrations. With San Antonio taking their largest lead of the game in the quarter at 13, it’s easy to assume without Nader’s play, the Thunder could have let the game get out of hand.
“I work on them everyday,” Nader said on his dribble-drive penetrations. “It might be new to you guys, but I work on them everyday. The confidence comes from every game I play here.”
This win came in a game where Paul George and Russell Westbrook combined to shoot 14-of-41 from the field, scoring 18 and 24 points respectively. While their offense wasn’t on for the entire portion of the game, their defensive presence and leadership help fuel the Thunder reserves into their impressive night.
At the end of the third quarter, Schröder drove and hit a layup at the buzzer. Following the score, Westbrook went to Schröder and gave his backup some words of encouragement.
“It’s amazing,” Schröder said of the sequence. “Everyone here is cheering everyone else on. The bench is always there when something good is happening, so when you see the starters get into it, it makes it that much better.”
The Thunder are off until Tuesday night when they travel to Atlanta to take on Trae Young and the Hawks.