The Oklahoma City Thunder, fresh off the airplane and fresh off a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, returned home to play the Miami Heat. They haven’t played well at home, and that continued tonight, falling to (4-10) in the Chesapeake Arena. After putting together a robust first-half performance, everything came crashing down in the second half, getting outscored 63-39 en route to a 108-94 loss.
Here are five things that stuck out from Monday night’s contest.
The bench fueled a run at the end of the first quarter into the first half of the second quarter.
This season, OKC’s bench unit saved the starters several times after a lackluster start, and this was one of those instances. After the Thunder built a 12-6 lead through the first four minutes of the game, Miami increased their defensive intensity, forced five Thunder turnovers, and went on a 15-4 run, thus taking a 21-16 lead. By the 10:30 mark, OKC regained a lead. The second half was a different story.
Shai was great. If only he were more aggressive.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 18 points in the first half on 6-of-7 shooting. While he got to the line six times, one can only imagine what his point total would have been if he attempted four or five more shots in the first half, which would have been reasonable and welcomed based on his efficiency. It’s honestly a blessing and a curse for Shai to be this unselfish. With the Thunder down big and looking to mount a comeback, SGA only attempted one shot in the final quarter. He finished the game with 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
Theo Maledon continues to be a bright spot for OKC.
Maledon isn’t a flashy player, nor does he have a flamboyant personality. He flies under the radar a bit because of that, but there’s no denying how special he already is and how much more special he’ll become. He’s making a solid campaign for being on an All-Rookie team and could be OKC’s best rookie since James Harden in 2009. Through 26 games, he’s averaging 8.0 points per game and looking more confident as each game passes.
The second half was deplorable.
Right when I was giving the Thunder their flowers for performing well and not allowing a third-quarter run or lead, the Heat turned on the jets and went on a 17-3 run towards the end of the third quarter, taking a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
At the end of the third, SGA had a two-possession split where he connected on a three and drove the lane for one of his patented layups to end the third quarter on a 5-0 run. It seemed as if he was finding his rhythm and heating up at the right time, entering the fourth. In return, due to regular rotations, head coach Mark Daigneault sat SGA until the 7:39 mark of the fourth when Miami had a 12-point lead. It was too late by then.
Darius Bazley started slow but bounced back and was a bright spot in the fourth quarter.
After a poor performance last night in Cleveland, Darius Bazley looked out of sorts again tonight against the Heat through three quarters. Up until the fourth, he was shooting 2-of-6 from the field for five points. In the fourth, he looked like the only Thunder player that felt a sense of urgency, scoring 70 percent of OKC’s fourth-quarter points with eight.
While it took place in a losing effort, Bazley may have built back some confidence in a season where his spirit seemed to waiver.
Oklahoma City fell to (12-19) on the season after this loss with a Wednesday night matchup against the (16-11) San Antonio Spurs.