Monday night was the most blatant example of the Thunder being a young up-and-coming squad. After an outstanding performance through the majority of the game, the Los Angeles Clippers took advantage of OKC’s inexperience in late-game situations and stole a win at home, 99-94.
The moment became too big for the youthful Thunder through the last three minutes of the game., and especially Darius Bazley who struggled down the stretch after three questionable decisions offensively.
Nevertheless, the Thunder lost the game, which isn’t surprising, and honestly, it was a surprise that this game went down to the wire, absent OKC’s premier lockdown wing defender Luguentz Dort to a shoulder injury. OKC held the Clippers to 30.6 percent shooting in the first half. Meanwhile, they were aggressive offensively, scoring 22 of their 44 first-half points in the paint.
In the second half, despite the Clippers’ small runs, they never took the lead until the final minute of the game, and that’s thanks to the third quarter domination from SGA, scoring 19 points in the third quarter on 5-of-7 shooting and 3-of-3 shooting from three. The Clippers are an elite defensive team, so everyone assumed they’d adjust to detain their former rookie standout, and they did by double-teaming him.
SGA only scored four points on four shots in the final 12 minutes of the game as a result.
That’s when OKC’s sixth pick, Josh Giddey, proved once again that he’s about that life on an NBA court. For the third time in seven games, Giddey conducted the offense to near-perfection down the stretch. He scored eight points and dished out three assists to Mike Muscala, SGA, and Theo Maledon, resulting in seven points. Giddey was responsible for 15 of OKC’s 20 points in the fourth quarter.
There were a few sequences down the stretch that told the ultimate story for the Thunder. Darius Bazley had an up-and-down game but ended with 15 points, six rebounds, and seven turnovers. After missing one of two free throws that would have put the Thunder up by two points with 1:18 left in the game, Paul George hit a jumper to put the Clippers up by one, then on the next offensive possession, Bazley took the aggressive route against George, which resulted in another turnover and a Reggie Jackson Jumper, putting Los Angeles up by four. On the next defensive possession, Bazley got called for a kick-ball violation. He was immediately replaced in the lineup by Mike Muscala, but by that point, the Thunder were down by four points with 12 seconds left.
Although the ending wasn’t pretty en route to a (1-6) record, it’s essential to take the moral victories in these losses to avoid slipping into a depression if you’re a Thunder fan.
So, the moral victories:
SGA continues to prove to us that he’s made that transition to being an all-star caliber player. His decision-making has gotten better. His discernment on when to start ‘taking games over’ has improved, and his overall game is more polished than in previous seasons. Through seven games, SGA’s averaging 22.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game.
Josh Giddey continues to prove why he’s worth the No. 6 pick in the NBA Draft as well. Of the rookies this season, he’s the most competent and the most well-rounded. He’s given the Thunder reason to believe that he’s a solid piece of the future, if not THE future…and we’re just past game seven of 82.
OKC will stay on the west coast with a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday at, you guessed it, 9:30 PM Central Time. Will they upset them for the second time this season?