Review: Dominant 4th place deserves Donner “W”

Highlights: OKC 121, ATL 114

THE REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK

Thunder 121, Falcon 114

The big picture

All night long in Atlanta, the Thunder had an answer. First it was a 7-0 burst in the second quarter to contain a Hawks run. Then, after OKC started shooting 0-for-8 in the third quarter, they used a 25-15 run to end the quarter and reduce Atlanta’s lead to four before heading into the final frame.

In the fourth quarter, the Thunder made the plays it needed by executing in crunch time and also making plays by sheer will. Josh Giddey buried a 3-pointer from the Hawks logo at the bottom of shot clock with 6:51 left, then found Jeremiah Robinson-Earl with a three to break a 96-96 tie with 5:22 left.

A few possessions later, Tre Mann attacked down the middle and got a runner to roll around the perimeter and into it, helping propel the Thunder to an 8-0 run and a safe cushion. On the stretch, the Thunder stayed balanced, hitting his free throws and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played with two massive loose balls in the last two minutes. On one he sped down the court for a two-handed dunk, and on another he was fouled and hit two of his 15 free throws, all of which came in the second half.

The 121-114 win came from as much as 14 points behind and gave the Thunder their seventh double-digit comeback win this year and their sixth win from behind at halftime, both top-three marks in the NBA this season .

observations

first quarter

Nick: A sequence in the opening minutes helped set the tone for The Thunder as his defense forced Hawks guard Trae Young into a missed contested 3-pointer that Josh Giddey cleared from the glass with a hard defensive rebound. When Atlanta’s Clint Capela came on, he came on as the second-best offensive rebounder in the league, but the Thunder gave the Hawks no space in the first quarter. Immediately after the rebound, the Thunder pushed the pace and brought the ball to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who took turns hitting the rim.

Paris: After pouring 66 points into the paint against the Timberwolves on Saturday, the Thunder continued the trend against the Hawks on Monday. OKC’s downhill attack resulted in 20 of his 27 total points coming from the painted area while shooting for a 63 percent clip from the inside. The Hawks are without one of their top rim protectors in John Collins and the Thunder has taken advantage of this by putting significant pressure on the rim.

second quarter

Paris: On the Thunder’s first offensive possession of the quarter, Ousmane Dieng used his long stride to float the ball over the front of the rim and became the Thunder’s first player in double figures with 10 points. Ousmane came off the bench and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers from the thunderball’s movement while also using his length to pull down rebounds and initiate the break. At the end of the night, the rookie finished with a career-high 15 points in 6-of-8 shooting from the field.

Nick: Gilgeous-Alexander stayed defensively alert on the weak side and sensed a cut back and the upcoming lob pass. Vigilance on the weak side and within Thunder’s defensive shell in general was a key focus, so it was a stimulating moment when Gilgeous-Alexander showed up and played the ball. That was his second steal of the game and his fourth straight game with at least two steals. Gilgeous-Alexander is now second in the NBA with 14 games with two or more steals this season. He finished his 10th 30-5-5 game of the year with 35 points, six rebounds and five assists.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox | NBAE via Getty Images)

Third quarter

Nick: A pair of 3s for Isaiah Joe, including one from the catch on a curl and some great offball moves, then another on a second chance where he faked a pump, side stepped and buried it in the corner . Joe is now 14 of 30 of 3 in his last five games played and continues to be an offensive spark for the Thunder with his active detachment, shot and defensive sloppiness. Joe finished the 3-on-4 shooting with nine points while OKC bench accumulated 36 points overall.

Paris: When the Thunder needed attack, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander managed to score 11 points in the third frame. The guard attacked hard in the lane and did what great players do – got to the free-throw line. Gilgeous-Alexander has the most free throw attempts of any player in the NBA, and those singles played a big part in keeping the Thunder within striking distance in the third quarter.

fourth quarter

Nick: When Lu Dort took off Bogdan Bogdanović, the smack on the ball was so loud that fans on the upper deck of State Farm Arena could hear it. They didn’t have much time to react, however, as the Thunder was on the floor in the blink of an eye and Josh Giddey raced the length of the floor for a layup with a quick one-and-one break. That bucket was part of a 9-0 thunderclap in the early stages of the fourth quarter and helped OKC forge a 91-90 lead, their first lead since the first quarter of that quarter. The Thunder forced Atlanta, the NBA’s top ball-protection team, to 18 turnovers.

Paris: Thunder’s defense continued to come up with critical stops throughout crunch time. After a turnover from OKC at one end, the Thunder got back on defense, got the stop and it resulted in a dunk from SGA at the other end. That level of composure and poise was key for the Thunder all the way through to keep the Hawks at bay when it mattered most.

quotes of the night

“The good thing about our team is that we don’t give up. We played it through. When things get difficult, we come together. We’re good at weathering storms that we’ve had to go through in the last 12 to 18 months. We’ve gotten better in those situations and I think over time we’ve handled the game really well on both ends of the floor and gotten a big win away. – Josh Giddey

“We’re really big and that’s what we talk about – that we need to use our length to steal a few balls and provoke some turnovers.” – Ousmane Dieng

“The more games, the better. A close game, a blowout game, a win, a loss, every night we learn. We had some tough games where we came close and lost. We had some difficult ones that we win. We just have to learn from each and every one of them and get better at the other end.” – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, on the Bally Sports Oklahoma show

What’s next

The Thunder’s longest road trip of the season, which will span 5,000 miles and four time zone changes, continues to Memphis where the Thunder take on the Grizzlies on Wednesday. After a brief stop in OKC for practice, the Thunder is sent back for a voyage to Cleveland and Dallas.

The strike: OKC shows composure

Monday’s photos

By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

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