Opportunities come and go, that sentiment stands true with Oklahoma City’s playoff situation. The Blue walked into the HP Field House Saturday with three potential playoff-clinchers under their belt, falling just short on all three occasions. There contest against Santa Cruz brought the group’s final chance. A win here — welcome to the playoffs. A loss — your seat’s not available yet. The Oklahoma City Blue grinded out a valiant performance against the Santa Cruz Warriors Saturday, it was just not enough, falling 113-103. For the Blue the loss closed their regular-season at 8-7, now watching in hopes of a G-League Ignite collapse for a title shot. Santa Cruz locked in a top 3 seed off the win, finalizing the year at 11-4.
Oklahoma City shot out to a quick 5-0 run off a Simpson bank three and a Jaylen Hoard lay-in. The Blue took advantages of two consecutive Warriors turnovers to build up an 11-2 spurt through five. Santa Cruz caught traction penetrating to the basket dwindling down the Blue lead to a single digit but a Yurtseven post hook digested with a Vincent Edwards and-one steered the game back in their favor — holding on 26-24 through one. The Blue fell back 41-to-50 percent from the floor however their 7-3 offensive rebounding advantage garnered numerous extra possessions.
Sides remained relatively stagnant before a Moses Brown backboard rejection on one end yielding a transition hammer on the fastbreak. Channeling momentum rotted off a Warriors basket, though perimeter shots cut their differences. Santa Cruz attempted to run Jeremy Lin in five-out offense however hit empty tries only jolted Oklahoma City’s transition offense. The Warriors got their groove back via two Isaiah Brown triples to take a 4 point lead with right under 4 minutes remaining. The Warriors’ lead took various twists-and-turns closing out the half, ultimately up their biggest lead of the game at 53-46.
Santa Cruz’ Isaiah Reese tied his season-high through the first half with 17 points off 7-of-9 shooting. Reese’s presence off the bench helped eek out more thorough play by hanging better percentages from the field (51.2%) and three (54.5%) by half. Oklahoma City surfaced a large portion of points on fastbreaks, garnering a 15-3 edge. Despite the Blue crushing the Warriors on the glass 27-19, the groups central name in Moses Brown only collected 5 boards, being boxed by as many as three guys off misses.
The Blue painted the town red, storming out to a 7-0 to tie the ball-game in just over a minute. SIdes swapped 5-0 runs to re-tie, ending in a Phil Booth triple off a Linsanity Oscar-worthy flop. Oklahoma City pressured Santa Cruz into a pairing of two turnovers en route to an 18-7 spurt. In a rare occasion, Grant Gibbs opted to sideline Moses Brown and Omer Yurtseven simultaneously opening the lane wide-open for Jeremy Lin drives. The Warriors space-and-pace play netted a 9-0 run to hold a 70-64 lead with 3:30 to go. Omer Yurtseven reentered the conversation, cashing out a string of baskets to narrow the gap. Costly mistakes emphasized the Blue’s tries as Yurtseven reached his fourth foul in the quarter. Emotion ran high in the final minutes, climbing back down from 7-to-3 points off two threes — entering the fourth down 79-76.
The fourth quarter saw the reemergence of a much needed face — Moses Brown. Santa Cruz made use of Brown’s slower pace, piecing their first two makes off alley-oops. What he did bring was rebounding. What those rebounds brought — points. The Blue snagged their first lead of the quarter with 9:40 remaining. Teams exchanged blows but it was Santa Cruz up 93-90 at the midway point. Vincent Edwards nailed a clutch three to tie the following possession only for Jeremy Lin to sink a two-point free throw. Oklahoma City leeched on a Warriors turnover with a Woolridge layup to tie again. A pair of Santa Cruz deep-balls moved the pendulum to 101-95 having under two minutes to go. Moses Brown caught gold with an inside shot but a Reese runner opened the game back up to 6. Ryan Woolridge flew in for an improbable putback, down 4 with a minute to go. Jeremy Lin tried to hold the basketball but instead coughed up a turnover — Cleveland dunk. Oklahoma City caught a stop and Phil Booth accelerated in transition, he missed. However Ryan Woolrigde sprung right back up for another putback — tie game. Santa Cruz walked out of a timeout with 20 seconds, attacking the hole with no Moses Brown, off the basket.
Ryan Woolridge’s superman run to close regulation essentially saved their shot, though they needed to close their 2 minute overtime to punch their ticket.
Jeremy Lin cashed in a triple on the first basket of overtime. A strained out play ended in a missed Vincent Edwards stepback. A Reese layup for Santa Cruz took a 5 point lead with under a minute left. Phil Booth ran right into the second level for a layup, it grazed the rim. Off a frenzy for the loose ball Moses Brown wound up poking it last — Warrior basketball. Lin dribbled around the basketball before dishing it out to Reese, game.
With Golden State’s recent recalling’s of Nico Mannion and Jacob Evans other options became necessary to take the prize. Isaiah Reese set a season-high of 29 points (12-of-17 FG) along with 5 boards and 11 assists. Reese provided a big boost off the bench using his marksmanship outside (5-of-8 3pt FG) and ruthless drives to create for everyone on the floor. Jeremy Lin sent a strong message Saturday drawing up 26 points (9-of-17 FG) and 5 assists. The 32-year-old kicked into Linsanity mode in the ladder stages, producing 20 points in the 2nd half and overtime period. High-ball screens created easy runners for the guard while digging out passes down low. Three-point shooting turned into their unit’s biggest friend with a +9 advantage from outside.
The odds were stacked against Oklahoma City in the final few minutes, their resilience in closing regulation — and all game, should never go unnoticed. The Blue’s primary scorer rested in Moses Brown. The big man recorded another double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds, even blossoming 2 steals and 2 blocks. Brown’s stats came well-earned, being boxed out and defended by as many as three people at times. The defensive gameplan paid off going 3-of-9 in the first half, however he closed the second half on a perfect 4-of-4. Omer Yurtseven prospered in 13 minutes with 11 points (5-of-9 FG) and 5 rebounds. Santa Cruz could not contain Yurtseven at either level, letting the big man feast on triples (1-of-2) and hooks inside. Ryan Woolridge took home Player of the Game honors essentially saving the contest to push things into overtime. Woolridge used his 175-pound at his finest, attacking for 15 points (7-of-11 FG), 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. The 24-year-old saves his best for last laying everything on the line for simple loose ball situations to game-tying tip-ins. Vincent Edwards took a number of clutch-time shots, finishing with 13 points off the bench. Edwards slipped right in for Pokusevski, assuming his shooter role going 5-of-14 from the court. The Purdue product missed a string of threes across this game, ending 2-of-10, but his shot-selection was not an issue. Phil Booth inked 14 points on a 5-of-16 outing. Booth remaining poised from distance, chipping in 4 made buckets, though constant penetrations put a stain on the day. Antonius Cleveland shot less than spotless 5-of-14 to crack 10 points, though his game-high made up for it. Melvin Frazier Jr. had a relatively silent statline with only 3 points and 2 steals, but his play far surpassed the numbers. The wing dominated in his 21 minutes defensively. Frazier Jr. stayed pesky to register a pile of loose change off deflections and steals alike.
Oklahoma City now will have to sit and watch the G-League Ignite battle the Austin Spurs. An Ignite loss keeps the Blue’s hopes alive, a win declares the end of the road.