Recap: Dominant 4th Earns Thunder ‘W’

Highlights: OKC 121, ATL 114

THE REPORTERS’ NOTEBOOK

Thunder 121, Hawks 114

The Big Picture

All night long in Atlanta, the Thunder had a response. First it was a 7-0 burst in the second quarter to keep a Hawks run in check. Then, after OKC started 0-for-8 shooting in the third quarter, it used a 25-15 run to close the quarter to cut Atlanta’s lead to four heading into the final frame.

In the fourth quarter, the Thunder made the plays it needed to, executing in crunch time and coming up with plays via sheer will as well. Josh Giddey buried a 3-pointer from the Hawks logo at the end of the shot clock with 6:51 to go, then he found Jeremiah Robinson-Earl on a three to break a 96-96 tie with 5:22 to go.

A few possessions later, Tre Mann attacked the middle and got a runner to roll around the rim and in, helping propel the Thunder to an 8-0 run and a safe cushion. Down the stretch, the Thunder stayed poised, hit its free throws and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander game up with two massive loose balls inside the final two minutes. On one, he raced down the court for a two-handed dunk, and another he got fouled and hit two of his 15-made free throws, all of which came in the second half.

The 121-114 win came after trailing by as many as 14 points, giving the Thunder its seventh double-digit comeback victory this year, and its sixth win after trailing 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 its defense forced Hawks guard Trae Young into a missed contested 3-pointer, which Josh Giddey cleared off the glass with a tough defensive rebound. Coming into the game, Atlanta’s Clint Capela came in as the league’s second-best offensive rebounder, but the Thunder allowed none to the Hawks in the first quarter. Immediately after the rebound, the Thunder pushed the pace and got the ball to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who scored at the rim in transition.

Paris: After pouring in 66 points in 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 its total 27 points coming from inside the painted area while shooting at a 63-percent clip from inside. The Hawks are without one of its top rim protectors in John Collins and the Thunder has taken advantage by putting significant pressure on the rim.

Second Quarter

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

Nick: Gilgeous-Alexander stayed alert on the weak side defensively and sniffed out a back cut and the lob pass that was about to be on the way. Vigilance on the weak side and inside the Thunder’s defensive shell in general has been a crucial focal point, and so when Gilgeous-Alexander went up and made a play on the ball, it was an energizing moment. That was his second steal of the game, and his fourth-straight games with at least two steals. Gilgeous-Alexander is now tied for second in the NBA with 14 games of two-or-more steals this season. He finished with 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 quarters

Nick: Pair of 3s for Isaiah Joe, including one off the catch on a curl and some great off-ball movement, then another on a second chance, where he pump-faked, side stepped and buried it in the corner. Joe is now played 14-of-30 from 3 over his last five games, and continues to be an offensive spark plug for the Thunder with his active spacing, shot-making and defensive scrappiness. Joe finished with nine points on 3-for-4 shooting, as the OKC bench racked up 36 total points.

Paris: When the Thunder needed offense, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander managed to manufacture 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 racked up the most free-throw attempts of any player in the NBA and those singles played a big role in keeping the Thunder within striking distance in the third quarter.

FourthQuarter

Nick: When Lu Dort stripped Bogdan Bogdanović, the slap on the ball was loud enough that fans in the upper deck of State Farm Arena could hear it. They didn’t have much time to react though, because the Thunder was up the floor in a heartbeat, with Josh Giddey racing the length of the floor for an and-one fast break layup. That bucket was part of a 9-0 Thunder burst in the early stages of the fourth quarter, helping OKC take a 91-90 lead, its first lead since the first quarter of this one. The Thunder forced Atlanta, the best ball protection team in the NBA, to 18 turnovers.

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

Quotes of the Night

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

“We’re really tall, and that’s what we talk about – that we’ve got to use our length to steal some balls and provoke some turnovers.” – Ousmane Dieng

“The more games, the better. A close game, a blowout game, a win, loss, every night we can learn. We’ve had some tough ones where we’ve been close and we’ve lost. We’ve had some tough ones we win. We just have to learn from each and everyone of them and get better on the other end of it.” – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, on the Bally Sports Oklahoma broadcast

what’s next

The Thunder’s longest road trip of the season, one that will span 5,000 miles and four time zone changes, moves on to Memphis where the Thunder will battle the Grizzlies on Wednesday. After a brief stop in OKC to practice, the Thunder will then ship back out for a trip to Cleveland and Dallas.

The Walkout: OKC Shows Poise

Monday’s photos

By Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

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