Bricktown Beat

Blue squander lead, barraged by Warriors 84-75

With the Oklahoma City Blue assigning Theo Maledon, Isaiah Roby, and Vit Krejci to the roster, the group failed to slash the Warriors, falling 84-75. For the Blue, the loss marks the group’s first falter of the season, now sitting at 2-1. As for the Warriors, Friday’s end result rolls out the opposite side of the history as their statement etched their first win of the year at 1-2.

The Blue opened the evening with their assignees as Isaiah Roby drummed down a layup to mark the board first, however, the Warriors slashed back, churning out nine-consecutive points for a 9-2 lead by the eight-minute mark. The Thunder squadron made an appearance following the 1-of-9 start, dwindling the game to a single possession with an Isaiah Roby layup and a Theo Maledon layup washed down with a three. The first frame’s final four minutes played out in a back-and-forth in which one tie led by alternating lead changes topped the Warriors up in the first frame 18-17.

The lead alternated in the onset of the second period as Aaron Wiggins recorded five-consecutive to stir on play, stirring on a second-unit surge. Fueled behind Wiggins’ seven points and a pair of D.J. Wilson layups, the Blue scrapped up a 16-2 run to hold a 33-20 lead through six minutes. Santa Cruz went to the drawing board with the double-digit deficit taking a full timeout before digging their way to the basket — it paid off. Off the inbound, L.J. Figueroa cut the game below 10 with an and-one conversion before two Jeff Dowtin pullups extended their run to seven-straight. One minute later, Santa Cruz’s deficit had been downsized to a single possession as the group hoisted in two inside baskets off a Selom Mawugbe alley-oop jam in addition to a L.J. Figueroa layup to find themselves out just 33-31. Paul Watson Jr. threw the Blue a lifeline, nailing a layup for a two possession lead, but an ending 6-0 run from the Warriors threw Santa Cruz on the high side 37-35.

In the closing 6:25 in the quarter, the Warriors outscored the Blue 33-17, holding Oklahoma City to a 1-of-12 clip in the span.

Oklahoma City recollected their lead to open the second half as assignee Vit Krejci nailed a triple to snipe a one-point lead, however, the lead was short lived, squandering the advantage as Axel Toupane returned fire with his own trifecta. As the game progressed, Santa Cruz’s lead wavered around two-to-four points until the six-minute mark as a D.J. Wilson driving dunk knotted the game at 44-all. The Warriors snagged the lead back in a short jolt with five Jeff Dowtin points, only for a Zavier Simpson layup coupled with a Theo Maledon three to retie to contest. The closing of the third frame mirrored much of the second as following a slew of alternating buckets, Axel Toupane canned a last-second triple to hoist a 63-58 lead going into the final quarter.

The infancy stages of the first frame took a sour note a minute in as Rob Edwards took a tumble resulting in Theo Maledon subbing in for the injured guard. As the basket widened, Santa Cruz found their groove, stirring in a 9-2 run to boast a 12-point lead at the six-minute mark. In Oklahoma City’s comeback attempt, Grant Gibbs entrusted a plethora of assignees as the quartet of Aaron Wiggins, Paul Watson Jr., Theo Maledon and Isaiah Roby stormed out the Blue’s final 15 points in the last segment of the game — but the Warriors kept on the gas pedal — hanging on for an 84-75 victory. 

Oklahoma City struggled to find an identity from the floor shooting 32-of-88 (36.4%) overall while going a paltry 7-of-39 (17.9%) from beyond-the-arch. Unlike the Blue’s prior two contests, the group failed to amass points from the stripe shooting 2-of-7 (28.6%) at the charity stripe. The Blue’s calling card to victory in the season’s opening pair of games rested in their passing prominence, clocking 33 and 32 assists, respectively, in their first two placements, however, that avenue had been cut off on Friday — placing 17 assists to 17 turnovers.        

Santa Cruz placed a subdued performance from the floor shooting 29-of-81 (35.8%) in all with a shaky 7-of-31 (22.6%) clip from distance. The determining factor in the Warriors’ victory came at the charity stripe as the group tallied 21 points at the line across a near-perfect 12-of-13 (92.3%) outing. Axel Toupane lifted the Warriors in the win as the forward logged 27 points (8-of-16 FG) and 13 rebounds across 33 minutes while shooting a hot 3-of-5 from downtown. Jeff Dowtin, Elijah Pemberton, and Jordan Bell also churned out double-digit outings on the night gunning out 18 points, 12 points, and 10 points, respectively.

Isaiah Roby led the Blue for the second-straight contest numbering 14 points (6-of-14 FG), 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 29 minutes. Roby was a non-factor at the three-point line shooting a blank 0-of-4, though the forward had a field day turning the corner for drives. Roby’s rebounding ability had been on full display Friday as the 23-year-old added a team-high 13 rebounds. Roby’s hybrid of speed and athleticism crossed out his height deficiency on the game as the big silenced former big Jordan Bell for 10 points and 6 rebounds.  

Aaron Wiggins marked up a double-double off the bench adding 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals to the pot. Wiggins sourced reliable production on both sides in his 30 minutes, pushing out a 5-of-13 shooting palate, slipping back from the three with a 1-of-4 spell.

Theo Maledon’s movement to the Blue called for a culture shift as the guard led the Thunder in minutes last season, but with a healthy Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plus new additions — the 20-year-old fell out of the group’s primary depth chart. Finding minutes was no issue for Maledon on Friday, as the guard logged 36 minutes for 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists. Though Maledon didn’t post star-caliber numbers in his G-League introduction, shooting 4-of-11 (2-of-6 3PT), the Frenchman placed his most aggressive game of the season, looking to slash to basket and create in the halfcourt for the majority of play.

D.J. Wilson rounded out Oklahoma City’s list of double-digit scorers adding 10 points (5-of-10 FG), 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in 20 minutes. Wilson starred as the Blue’s top drive-and-dish option with the big man wiggling his way inside a plethora of times for standing dunks and layups. 

Vit Krejci failed to hit his stride shooting a feeble 1-of-10 (1-of-7 3PT) on the game to bottle his 29-minute slab with 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, and 3 fouls. The Czech orchestrated as an off-ball piece for the majority of play, however, his time as a ball handler went rather bleak as the 21-year-old couldn’t place an assist.

Next up, the Oklahoma City Blue (2-1) will seek revenge against the Santa Cruz Warriors (1-2) on Sunday.

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