After giving up 136 points on Monday night, the shorthanded Thunder recovered and enforced their brand of basketball on the Rockets, splitting this two-game series with a Wednesday night victory, 104-87.
Shai Gilgeous Alexander was out with a tweaked ankle, George Hill has been out and will be out for the next few weeks recovering from a procedure on his hand, and Luguentz Dort only played nine minutes before leaving the game with a sore knee.
On Monday, Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort played, yet were blasted by 30 points. The Thunder supporting cast and reserves had a different mentality entering Wednesday’s game, and it showed from the tip.
Outside of SGA and occasionally Dort, the Thunder don’t have any elite scorers on their roster, and they’re aware of that. They have hard-nosed players who are confident and love to hustle and won the game on the back of those two things. Houston netted a franchise record 28 threes on Monday because OKC’s perimeter defense in the first half was so lax that the Rockets got comfortable. Once a team gets comfortable from three, it’s twice as hard to cool them off. It was a priority on Wednesday not to let that happen again. Early in Wednesday’s game, there wasn’t a crack of space open on the Rockets’ perimeter. That didn’t stop them from hoisting up the contested three, but as expected, they weren’t very successful, shooting 19 percent in the first quarter.
At that point, OKC gained their confidence on the defensive end, which carried over to transition-style possessions for the Thunder, making it easier to score.
Something else to credit is that Aleksej Pokuševski got called to play for the THunder’s G-League affiliate, the OKC Blue in Orlando, FL. Poku wasn’t in the lineup, and the bench operated at an increased pace on both ends of the floor. Things opened up for them.
Oklahoma City won this game by 17 points, yet they didn’t have one player score more than 20 points, which was the concern when SGA was ruled out. Knowing that there weren’t any elite scorers active tonight, the Thunder had to implement the ‘strength in numbers’ mentality. Four players scored more than 15 points, and five scored in double-figures.
Kenrich Williams led the Thunder in scoring with 19 points and six rebounds. Darius Bazley may have found his rhythm again with his third double-double of the season, scoring 18 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Al Horford (17), Hamidou Diallo (16), and Isaiah Roby (13) rounded out OKC’s double-digit scorers. Diallo nearly had a double-double with nine rebounds.
The Thunder recorded their second home win on the season and are now (9-11) overall. They’ll get a chance to even their record at .500 on Friday and Saturday with a back-to-back against the Minnesota Timberwolves.