Game Recap: Thunder 102, Grizzlies 99
The Big Picture
OKC logged its second consecutive victory after battling back from down 16 points against the Grizzlies and enduring yet another crunch time battle. It took a disciplined defensive effort, big contributions from the second unit and another all-around performance from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey to leave Memphis unscathed.
Moments from the 48
Second Quarter Swing
With the victory over Memphis, the Thunder posted its sixth win of the season after trailing by 15 or more points – a league-leading mark. After falling behind by as many as 16 points, the Thunder’s offense caught fire to the tune of an extended 24-to-8 run in the second quarter to close the margin and bring the game back to striking distance.
“We really got our defense into the game,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “And then we started really attacking them the way that we think we have to and kind of got the grip on the game and back under control.”
Leading the charge for the Thunder was Josh Giddey who poured in 14 of his career-high-tying 19 points in the second frame alone. The rookie went 5-of-6 from the field including 3-of-4 from behind the arc to help the Thunder close the gap and stabilize the ball game. For the night, Giddey finished with 19 points, a career-high 11 assists and five rebounds. The effort marked his fifth double-double of the season.
“I made a few shots. My teammates got me open,” said Giddey. “They were going under [on ball screens] so I was trying to just punish that getting downhill. Guys were finding me so I got in a little bit of groove in that second quarter.”
Down to the Wire
After clawing its way back from down 16, the Thunder and the Grizzlies were deadlocked in a back-and-forth battle for the majority of the second half. In fact, all 13 lead changes in the game took place over the course of the final two quarters and for the third straight game, execution was paramount in determining a winner.
In the final 17 seconds of the game, the Thunder put together a pair of back-to-back possessions that put its execution on display.
The first took place on an inbounds play out of a timeout. With the slap of the ball, Giddey found Gilgeous-Alexander on a wide-open back cut to the rim for an uncontested two-handed slam to give OKC a 98-95 lead.
“I recognized how they were playing it and [Josh] recognized as well,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “Obviously, Josh doesn’t miss backdoor cuts. He made a great pass.”
On the following possession with jut 14 seconds left, it was Gilgeous-Alexander who came up with the timely stop. After switching on to Dillon Brooks following the initial action, SGA anticipated the inbounds pass and stole the ball for a fast break. The steal led to a pair of free throws for Gilgeous-Alexander on the other end to give OKC a five point lead.
“I knew if it was a lazy pass, I was gonna try to steal it,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “They'd been throwing the lazy amount pass all game, but I wanted to say the steal until the end of the game just in case we needed it and opportunity presented itself.”
Baze Block Party
Thunder forward Darius Bazley provided a punch off the bench for the Thunder. In the first quarter alone, when the Thunder’s offense was looking for a lift, he provided six points on a perfect 2-for-2 from the field. However, it was his presence around the rim that made the biggest impact on the night.
Bazley, who leads the team in blocks and ranks in the top 20 in the league in blocks per game, finished the game with four blocks and seven rebounds. The effort marked his sixth game of the season with three or more blocks.
“He was just a factor in the air,” said Daigneault. “Give him credit. He was ready to play and gave us some good juice there.”
Big Minutes from the Bench
Bazley wasn’t the only player to contribute in a big way off the bench. OKC’s second unit outscored Memphis 37-21. Thunder wing Kenrich Williams led the way offensively in the second unit with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field.
@shaiglalex 23 PTS, 4 AST@luthebeast 12 PTS, 6 REB@joshgiddey 19 PTS, 11 AST@BazleyDarius 10 PTS, 7 REB, 4 BLK@dfavors14 6 PTS@JCREarl 5 PTS, 5 REB@williamskenrich 13 PTS#MikeMuscala 9 PTS@aleksejpokusevs 3 PTS, 2 AST@tre2mann3 4 REB@Aaron_Wiggins_ 1 REB, 1 AST pic.twitter.com/tjvN0LDzT4— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 21, 2021
The Last Word
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the effort defensively…
“We did enough tonight to get a W. Obviously they started pretty hot. We weathered the storm, stayed composed and obviously we won the next three quarters. I think that shows how we're growing every day and guys are getting better from it.”
Josh Giddey on what the team is learning in late game scenarios…
“We're learning how to play in these late game situations... We found the right people, made the right plays in crunch time, we inbounded the ball, we didn't turn it over. So we made a lot of good plays down the stretch and that's what won us the game.”
Just two more games await OKC before the Christmas holiday and they come in the form of a home-road back-to-back. The team will face the Nuggets at home Wednesday before heading out to the Valley to take on the Phoenix Suns on Thursday.