After losing to New Orleans by 28 points less than a week ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder regrouped and turned their most disappointing loss into their signature win through seven games this season.
If you would’ve asked if the Thunder won the day after the first quarter, I would have definitively said no. They looked sloppy on defense, allowing New Orleans to exploit them in the paint while trying to match that with 3s on the other end of the floor. While they were 5-of-13 from 3 in the first quarter, they knew that alone wouldn’t be sustainable through the entire contest.
The Thunder won the day because after struggling, they made adjustments and succeeded.
The spark plug was OKC’s bench unit led by Hamidou Diallo and his hybrid motor on both ends of the floor.
Diallo was the most impressive Thunder through the first half with nine points, one steal, one block, and motivating the entire bench unit to get active on defense. They turned their stingy defense into a 10-0 run, taking a four-point lead after trailing for the first 17 minutes of the game.
The starters didn’t perform well in the first half.
The 10-0 run that the bench worked so hard for was derailed almost immediately after the starters checked back in. They reverted to their first-quarter habit of allowing Zion Williamson and the Pelicans to do what they wanted inside the paint while countering that with a poor shot selection.
Darius Bazley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander showed signs of being a dangerous young duo.
Was it real, or was it just luck? Well, Darius has been consistent through three games and showed spurts of greatness in his other games this season. Over those last three, he’s averaging 18.3 points and 10.6 rebounds on 50.0 percent shooting. Bazley is just discovering how talented he is, similar to Shai’s breakout season last year.
Speaking of Shai realizing his potential last season and applying it, he’s starting to unlock other aspects of his game that fans and journalists heard of but didn’t see much. After the previous season of playing off the ball, it’s been a welcomed surprise to see him as the primary distributor for the Thunder. Though a small sample size, SGA has stepped up to his new role as OKC’s primary ballhandler, averaging 6.7 assists per game, doubling up his 3.3 average from last season. He also broke out, showing his two-way potential, with an active day on the defensive end with five steals.
Through seven games, the Thunder are (3-4), and we’re seemingly learning something new about this young team every time they play. On Wednesday night, they undoubtedly got more than one percent better. They won the game, and they won the day.