For the second night in a row, the Oklahoma City Thunder found themselves down 20. For the second night in a row, they would not go down quietly.
Effort alone doesn’t win games, but consistent effort certainly puts them in position that they wouldn’t be otherwise. It happened Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks and again on Saturday in the 111-105 loss to the Boston Celtics.
Oklahoma City trailed by 25 more than halfway through the third quarter, but cut the deficit to 15 by the end of the frame. They cut that in half again, getting it down to eight with about 2:30 to play, and then to four with 11 seconds left. It was too late and Boston closed them out.
“These guys, you put something on their plate, they’re going to eat. It’s next man up,” said acting head coach Dave Bliss.
It was OKC’s second game in two nights and fifth in the last seven days. It’s been a daunting stretch. A loss isn’t something to celebrate, but the Thunder have shown they won’t give in, which is a promising sign, particularly with the circumstances of the schedule and Mark Daigneault’s absence on this road trip while his wife is due to give birth.
The Thunder fall to 6-10 on the season. Here are takeaways from the game:
With back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter, Josh Giddey set a career high in shots made from behind the mark. He finished 4-for-6 from deep, a massive improvement on his 3-point struggles from recent games.
He finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists. It ended his small two-game streak of double-doubles, but was a very nice performance overall.
With 10 rebounds and six assists, Darius Bazley showed he can contribute around the board when his shot isn’t falling.
But don’t let the final few words of that sentence get lost. To put it bluntly, his shot was not falling.
Bazley finished with four points on 2-for-11 shooting and missed all three 3s he attempted.
This is now the fifth game in a row that Bazley has failed to reach double-digit points, and the second in a row in which he has scored exactly four.
The Thunder are 5-2 when he reaches double-digits and 1-8 when he does not.
On that note of players scoring less than usual, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander failed to reach 20 points for the fourth game in a row. I’ve written a fair bit about how the Thunder are better when someone else complements his scoring and SGA doesn’t need to have an explosive night, but in these last two games, there hasn’t been that other scorer. Lu Dort’s streak of 20-point games is over and a third player has yet to step up as a scoring threat.
Gilgeous-Alexander finished the Celtics game with 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting, though he did bounce back from behind the arc, making three of his seven attempts.
There are a lot of possibilities. It could be fatigue. Maybe shot selection. Perhaps he isn’t being demanding enough and needs to find times to simply take over and find rhythm. Maybe he’s just adjusting back to not being the sole ball-handler.
Chances are he’ll bounce back soon. The Thunder are better when they don’t need him to be elite —- but in these last two games, they have needed it and he hasn’t been able to deliver.
Dennis Schroder sure does like playing against his former teams.
One night after scoring 21 points in Boston’s win over the Lakers, Schroder went off for 29 points, four rebounds and six assists against the Thunder. He went 13-for-22 from the field and was second in scoring to Jayson Tatum, who had 33.
Even more than any Thunder offensive issue, the inability to stop these two players was the reason OKC could not pull out the win.
One positive from the game for OKC was its 3-point shooting. The team averages a shooting percentage alarmingly close to 30% from behind the arc, but on Saturday, the Thunder 18-for-42 (42.9%). Four players made at least three 3s, including Jeremiah Robinson-Earl off the bench.
Take the positives with the negatives and turn them into trends.
OKC has a day off before taking on the Atlanta Hawks.
Source: Yahoo Sports