Oklahoma City – The Thunder returned home on a three game win streak and looked to make it four after hosting the number one pick Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic.
Both the Magic and Thunder came in playing very unique lineups so you knew it was going to be a very interesting and entertaining game and that it was but defense was optional in the first half.
Both did a great job of of using their drives to set up their 3 point shot and neither team could get a stop in the paint. It was pretty much back and forth until the third quarter when the Magic got off to a hot start on both ends of the floor and took a 15 point lead midway through the period. But, if you’ve watched the Thunder the last two years, you know them getting down by 15 or more is exactly where they want to be.
It’s like they finally start to realize the game is still going on and know they need to lock in when they get down by double digits which is what they did by ending the 3rd on a 14-2 run to get within 3 to start the fourth.
It was a game again after that and a fun one at that.
The Magic did go back up by 11 in the 4th but the Thunder once again came back midway through the period and it was back and forth from that point on. It was two young teams in a close game so anything could have happened and either team could have won but, having the best player on the floor late in games goes a long way and the Thunder have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who was the best player on the floor and that made the difference.
Not just with his scoring because that was great but just being on the floor and making sure the Magic had to account for him on his drives. Then with his playmaking. On his drives he made sure not to force a shot up when all the attention was on him and made the right pass after being double and that led to made baskets that helped win them the game.
The Thunder got the victory with a 116-108 win over the Magic and extend their win streak to four which is the longest active win streak in the Western Conference. It’s also the first time the Thunder have been over .500 since early in the 20-21 season.
Here are the 3 reasons for the victory.
The last few games the Thunder have been living in the paint and that didn’t stop Tuesday night against the Magic. They made it a point to start their offense by getting drives and making sure they established themselves in the paint before they took a shot.
This particular game could have been a game where most teams would be a little deterred from trying to get shots in the paint given the Magic size. Their starting lineup’s shortest player was 6’6″ while having two guys who are 6’11”, one that’s 6’9″, and one that’s 7’2″. That length didn’t stop the Thunder from imposing their will in the paint.
Not settling for 3s has really been key in this winning streak and it’s really a blueprint for how they should play every single night. Even when they are missing easy shots in the paint, they keep trying to get to the paint to set up their 3 point shots.
The Thunder defense wasn’t the best Tuesday night but they still ended up forcing 25 Magic turnovers which resulted in 30 points.
In a close game like this, forcing turnovers and turning them into points was key. The best teams always find a way to win games and right now the Thunder are a good team.
Yes, they didn’t play the best defense because the Magic were too comfortable all night for the most part but they still found a way to force a lot of turnovers and make things just uncomfortable enough to win the game.
Simply put, the Thunder bench was phenomenal Tuesday night.
Scoring 44 points and outscoring the Magic bench 14 points. In a 8 point game all 14 of those points were needed and it was Aleksej Pokusevski that led the way off the bench.
Poku has been one of the most polarizing Thunder players ever but he’s really coming into his own which is great to see.
Nights like Tuesday night where the not all the starters had it going, the Thunder really needed their bench and they showed out in a big way.
The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who had another great game and seems like he’s trying to send a message to the rest of the NBA on both ends of the floor. He had 34 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Lu Dort added 14 points while Jeremiah Robinson Earl added 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals.
Off the bench Poku was great with 16 points and 9 rebounds while Tre Mann added 13 points and 5 rebounds also off the bench.
The Thunder will look to make it five in a row when they play the Nuggets on Thursday night.