The Big Picture
For the second consecutive game, the Thunder found itself in contest decided by a buzzer beater – this time ending in OKC’s favor. After a back-and-forth battle against the Clippers that endured through four quarters, the Thunder demonstrated poised execution in the final 30 seconds to put itself in a position to close out its homestand on a high note with the roaring excitement from the crowd following a thrilling finish to the game.
Moments from the 48
Beating the Buzzer
Down four points with 17 seconds left in the game, the Thunder needed to string together multiple plays of sharp execution to give itself a chance against the Clippers. The team had been in a very similar position just two days prior where execution was pivotal in orchestrating a chance to win. While that contest ended in heartbreak, OKC extracted the lessons to ensure that this one ended in triumph.
LA’s Reggie Jackson sank a pair of free throws to put the Clippers ahead 103-99 with 17 seconds on the clock. Without a timeout, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander accelerated up the floor and finished a quick layup in transition to make it a two-point game with 10.4 seconds left.
Rather than immediately foul on the inbounds catch, the Thunder fought full court to force a turnover or until the ball reached the hands of Justise Winslow (a 50-percent free throw shooter) before committing a foul – which is exactly what happened. Winslow missed both attempts at the line which gave OKC the opportunity to call a timeout, advance the ball and draw up a play to win the game with 6.9 seconds left.
“Not fouling right away, that was huge at the end there,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “The presence of mind to trap after the quick two, forcing the pass, get a weaker free throw shooter with the ball. He missed two free throws there and then that was a game-winning shot instead of game-tying shot.”
Following a perfectly executed inbounds play, Gilgeous-Alexander found himself with a mismatch advantage right in his comfort zone on the floor. With one dribble, SGA faked a drive to the rim that sent his defender all the way to the paint and opened up a wide-open, unobstructed step-back from behind the arc that sank through the net as the buzzer sounded.
“I knew where I caught it was perfect for my comfort zone and the shot I want to shoot,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I tried to make it look like I was driving. I just got to my step back going right that I work on every day and as soon as I let it go, it felt good.”
“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Shai work on that shot before practice, after practice,” said Thunder guard Lu Dort. “I felt like it was great for the whole team and him because he’s been working so hard.”
Giddey’s Big Stat Line
Thunder rookie Josh Giddey made his presence known on both ends of the floor and in the history books with his eight-point, 10-assist and 18-rebound stat line on Saturday. With his 18 rebounds, Giddey logged the most rebounds by a rookie this season and the most by a rookie in OKC history. In addition, the Australian guard dished out a career-high-tying 10 assists behind a wide array of passes that ranged from flashy to simply functional.
“That's one of Josh's skills. He has a nose for the ball,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “He’s always around it, makes the right plays and it paid off tonight. He's obviously a great rebounder. He's been doing that all season. Tonight was just on another level.”
Out on the Break
The Thunder outscored the Clippers 14-6 in fast break points on Saturday. Throughout the contest, it was clear that OKC prioritized tempo and pace offensively. In addition to forcing turnovers, the Thunder broke out in transition off the Clippers’ missed shots which led to highly efficient looks at the rim a perfect 7-for-7 on fast break buckets. Giddey was a catalyst in the fast-paced effort as several of his assists were simple kick-ahead passes in transition that led to layups.
“When we were out rebounding and running, that's where we're at our best. Our bigs run the floor hard and you’ve got to reward them,” said Giddey. “I try and get them as many easy layups as possible so they keep running the floor and it creates space for the rest of us.”
Dort’s Strong Finishes
Thunder wing Lu Dort finished the contest with a game-high 29 points on 12-of-19 from the field. While the undrafted wing shot an efficient 4-for-8 from the 3-point line, it was his hard-earned, bruising finishes at the rim that caught attention. Of his 29 points, 16 of them came from the paint and four on fast breaks.
After finishing last season as one of the poorest finishers at his position in the league, Dort used the offseason to focus on finishing strong around the rim. Against the Clippers, the Montreal native used both his speed and physicality to create advantages and finish the looks he created at the basket.
“Lu works extremely hard, extremely disciplined, he plays the game the right way and he gives it his all every time he time steps on the floor,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I think when you do those things, good things will happen to you and they're happening for Lu fast."
The Last Word
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in his walk-off interview with Bally Sports OK following his buzzer beating 3…
“I’m excited as hell. Obviously a game of ups and downs and I was bad for most of it. I just tried to think next play mentality, tried to do whatever it takes to get a W and we got one tonight.”
Coach Daigneault on the joy of winning on a buzzer beater…
“It's awesome. Competition is joyous and heart ache. That's what happens when you pour yourself into it. I thought our team poured ourselves into the game tonight. It was a really good game. Both teams played really well. They really tested us and obviously we were able to come out on top.”
After concluding its four-game homestand, the Thunder’s next contest comes on the road in Memphis to take on the Grizzlies. From there, OKC will have a day off before a road-home back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday where the team will face the Nuggets at home and the Suns in Phoenix.