Oklahoma City – The Thunder welcomed the Bulls to town for the first time this Eason and looked to end their three game losing steak before they hit the road for a couple of games.
Just like the last few games, defense was the big topic of discussion before the game and the Thunder knew they’d have to play some solid defense against the Bulls or it could get ugly really quick.
Good defense is not what happed to start the game because the Bulls got off to a hot start and jumped out to a 21-7 lead right off the back. Then the Thunder woke up. No timeout was called or anything. Just head coach Mark Daigneault letting the team figure things out and that they did. After getting down by 14 early, the Thunder went on a 25-9 run the rest of the quarter to take the lead after one.
After that it was pretty much back and forth for the rest of the game with both teams taking small leads and it was going to come down who could finish strong down the stretch. The shot making was spectacular down the stretch and that caused the game to go to OT and that period was going to come down to who got the better look to win the game.
That was the Thunder. Bulls played a little more iso basketball the last few possessions and leaned on their stars to get them over the top by making tough shots that they were making in the fourth quarter while the Thunder at the very least ran some pick and roll to get Shai Gilgeous-Alexander a better matchup. It worked for the Thunder because they were able to squeak out a win over the Bulls with a 123-119 victory.
Their defense wasn’t the best because it was still the 1oth straight game of giving up 110 or more but it was key at times and they only allowed 9 points in OT.
Here are the 3 reasons for the victory:
The Thunder came out a little flat and got down by 14 early and the starters just didn’t really have it on either end of the floor.
Insert Thunder bench.
Everyone that came off the bench against the Bulls contributed in some way. Mostly energy and effort. They provided a much needed spark and each played a key role in the victory.
Specifically Darius Bazley and Jeremiah Robinson Earl. Both guys gave exactly what the Thunder needed off the bench with some paint protection and shot making. Kenrich Williams provided that spark that has kind of been missing off the bench also.
The Thunder bench ended up outscoring the Bulls bench 48-31 and in a very close game that went to OT, winning the bench matchup was very key.
Thunder only had 13 turnovers. They’ve really been limiting turnovers lately and when you’re not exactly playing the best defense you don’t need to have games where you have a lot of turnovers.
It’s as simple as that. The Thunder really valued that basketball against the Bulls and it really helped them gut out a win. It’s even more impressive given they are a young team and play at at a very fast pace.
Thunder once again show just how poised they are. It’s not something you can exactly teach or coach but they continue to show they have a lot of poise.
There were plenty of times where they could have showed their youth but in those moments they looked like the more veteran laden team. And I think it has a lot to do with head coach Mark Daigneault letting them figure it out in moments they get down, when their opponent goes on a run, or when they don’t have their offense going.
They got down by 14 and although he had already called a timeout, most coaches would call another one to get the team’s mind right but Daigneault has insisted on letting them figure things out and it’s really helped.
Another time was down the stretch. A lot of young teams would play more iso ball instead of team ball and take a lot of bad or tough shots. Especially when you have a guy you can lean on like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Thunder played good team basketball with a lot of trust and it worked out because it was a little opposite of what the Bulls were doing.
The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who had another 30 point game with 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. Aleksej Pokusevski was real solid in the starting role and had 15 points and 6 rebounds while Josh Giddey added 10 points, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists. Lu Dort was solid as well with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Off the bench Darius Bazley had his season high with 17 points while Jeremiah Robinson Earl had 10 points.
The Thunder will look to start a winning streak when they hit the road for the second night of a back to back against the Rockets.