With both sides unarmed of their respective star point-guards in Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (knee sprain) and Rocket’s John Wall (rest), the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to topple the Houston Rockets 104-87. The Thunder improved to 9-11 on the season, good for 12th in the conference, but they also indulged in the redemption they thoroughly sought after following their 106-136 pounding they faced vs. Houston on Monday. For the Rockets this loss set them back to an even 10-10 on the year and snapped their six-game winning streak, which was good for the leagues best at the time.
The Thunder netted five players in double-figures by the game’s closure, sourced primarily by the team’s typical bench unit coined “The Breakfast Club.” Two of the club’s usual’s in Theo Maledon and Hamidou Diallo got a call-up to replace Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and George Hill in this game, producing in their promotion. Theo Maledon materialized 6 points off a trifling 2-of-12 from the field in Monday’s game, but he made up for his lackluster shooting with inspiring numbers in other facets of the game. The 19-year-old carved out 4 assists in his first glimpse of running the offense, but his best attribute came from defense. Maledon lit up the stat sheets with a confounding 6 steals on the night, and even collecting a two-handed snatch block on Victor Oladipo in the final quarter of play. Not only was the rookie’s six steals good for a career-high, but it found himself near yet another rookie record for the franchise. Hamidou Diallo was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time of the season and just the seventh time in his career, but he didn’t cave under the spotlight. The 22-year-old baked up 16 points (5-9 FG) while nearly notching a double-double with 9 rebounds. The guards ferocity inside dealt lethal blows to Houston second level, getting hacked on drives for a total of six free throws. Darius Bazley was the stronghold of the starting unit, collecting a double-double of 18 points (6-13 FG) and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes. The sophomore assumed a large portion of ball-handing duties with the loss of SGA, and he made the most of things, creating most of his buckets driving in on the much more lumber man in P.J. Tucker.
The bench duo of forwards Kenrich Williams and Isaiah Roby catapulted Oklahoma City into a sizable lead for the grander part of the contest. Kenrich Williams led the Thunder with a team high of 19 points on 7-8 shooting to mesh with his 6 rebounds an 2 assists in just 23 minutes of play. For Williams, his typical role of playing 12 minutes a gave was blustered, and it let followers of the organization know, he’s more than your typical role player. Williams spanned from the 2-4 positions in Wednesday’s contest and his adaptability to his surrounding was the main constitution in his success. Williams stretched Rockets bigs outside with his 3-of-3 shooting outside while going right at guards inside off of a plentiful number of backdoor cuts and hard drives inside to the basket, including a high-banking flip-shot on Victor Oladipo in the third. Isaiah Roby had what he called “the icing on the cake” to his celebration with Oklahoma City’s win. The now 23-year-old saw a major jump in minutes on Wednesday going from 12 minutes to a much larger 19, and produced with 13 points and 2 rebounds. Roby found much success initiating contact with defenders around the basket, and pulling away to create space once defenders reciprocated. Roby’s shot creation around the basket paved the way for wide open push shots, as the swaying momentum of defenders left them no time for liftoff to contest.
Houston found some promise in guards Eric Gordon and Victor Oladipo who scored 22 and 19 points respectively, but their lack of variety cost them the game.
Out of the gates, Houston attempted to replicate the same success they found on Monday forcing up three point attempts. Their squad as a collective shot a miniscule 4-13 from downtown in the first period of Wednesday’s game, but it was just one attempt shy of the 14 attempts they took in Monday’s first quarter, in which they cashed in on 11. As Oklahoma City took a quick 30-25 lead through one, their unit put all their marbles from outside, in hopes to reclaim victory. Houston ended up slipping to a 24-point hole come halftime off of bad shot selection, and they doubled-down yet again in the third shooting an abysmal 1-of-11 from deep. Houston make strides outside in the final period, but it was a classic case of too little to late, finishing the night 12-of-46 (26%) outside, just six attempts shy of their record-breaking display earlier in the week.
Oklahoma City left the door open for options however; giving the leeway necessary to take grasp of the game. All 10 of the Thunder’s active players stepped on the floor in the first period, and the emphasis on passing early seeped into every one of the team’s members, as 10 of their first 12 field goals came assisted. Even when starting guard Lu Dort made an early exit in the 2nd half of play, the team rallied together to total the team’s largest lead of the year at 30 points, and finished the night with their largest win of the season up 17 points. The course of the game could really be summed up in the free throw category, as the Thunder shot 26 attempts to Houston’s 13, the Thunder’s intensity inside caught defenders off guard, while the Rocket’s halfcourt, threes only offense didn’t help their case in getting any freebies.
Oklahoma City will have a chance to crack even in the win-loss column by the end of the week as they face off against the Western Conference’s lowlier in the Minnesota Timberwolves (5-16) for yet another mini baseball set on Friday and Saturday in the ‘Peake.