Bricktown Beat

Blue fend off Warriors, snag 85-71 victory

With Thunder assignees Tre Mann, Theo Maledon, and Vit Krejci active for the Blue, they stomped the Warriors 85-71 in their baseball set-closer. For the Blue, the win escalates them back onto the high side as they now sit at 3-1 while in the case of the Warriors, their win percentage sulks to 1-3 heading out of Bricktown.

With Aaron Wiggins ruled out for Sunday’s contest, Grant Gibbs’ starting unit took some shifting as former two-way forward Jaylen Hoard received the team’s starting power forward role in the 22-year-old’s absence. Oklahoma City trotted out the game’s first five points as a D.J. Wilson’s driving jam paired with a Paul Watson Jr. triple bolstered the Blue, but Golden State charged right back, tallying seven unanswered with five points coming from Jeff Dowtin. A multi-possession back-and-forth occurred at the seven-minute mark as Theo Maledon converted on two layups to take two game ties before a Jaylen Hoard three pushed the Blue up 12-11. Though Oklahoma City’s initial offense did a solid job spurring on points, a late-frame stretch that involved three misses and two turnovers opened the floodgates for Golden State — they took advantage with a 6-0 run, and a five-point lead. The final moments of the first quarter saw the Blue’s bench unit inch back into play as Olivier Sarr cashed in on an and-one, missing the free throw, while Vit Krejci picked a defender’s pocket in the halfcourt for a breakaway finger roll on the other end. By the conclusion of the first, Oklahoma City was set back 24-18.

Oklahoma City mirrored their first frame following a Jordan Bell layup, sourcing their first baskets from D.J. Wilson and Paul Watson under the basket. The Warriors returned fire with the Blue extending an eight-point lead with two made baskets, but Oklahoma City had a counter. In returning efforts, the Blue hosed the Warriors with 11 points unanswered in a span of three minutes, finding assignees in Tre Mann for a free throw and Theo Maledon for a layup and a trifecta. Golden State rebutted with five points following the mid-quarter collapse, but Oklahoma City remained over the horizon line, recapturing the lead at the two-minute mark off a Theo Maledon scoop-and-score. Santa Cruz struck the final exchange in the frame, marking the Blue out 43-42 by half.

The Blew drew above the 40-percent mark in the half off of an 18-of-42 palate (42.9%,) however, a sluggish 4-of-14 (28.6%) time at the perimeter knocked Oklahoma City down a few pegs. Theo Maledon starred in the first half for the Blue, operating to the tune of a 5-of-6 outing to harvest 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 19 minutes. 

On the Warriors side, their play stretched out the perimeter as though the group shot a mere 15-of-45 (33.3%) from the field, their excess of threes pillaged the way for a 5-of-18 (27.8%) hit rate in the first 24 minutes. Jordan Bell made use of Isaiah Roby’s absence as the big man compiled 10 points (5-of-6 FG) and 9 rebounds in the half while bench producer Eddie Stansberry added 9 points on a 3-of-6 array from downtown. 

Tre Mann laid down an exclamation to begin the second half as the Florida alum drilled two stepback threes to open the half from 27 and 24 feet back, respectively. The Blue extended their run to eight straight following a Jaylen Hoard running layup, but the Warriors were there to nip in two baskets — cutting the game to a lone possession. The Warriors’ involvement was minimal following their four points, paving the way for Oklahoma City to run up the score — that they did. In Santa Cruz slump, the Blue churned out a 9-0 run that involved all facets of the game, threes, layups, free throws, and alley-oop dunks — the whole package was there. The Blue splurged a singular free throw to snap the run, but play became business as usual immediately after, spewing out seven-straight points to bottle the quarter, taking advantage of a Rob Edwards three, a D.J. Wilson standing jam, and a Melvin Frazier Jr. jam to hold the Blue up 66-49 going into the final frame. Oklahoma City outscored Santa Cruz 24-6 in the period, silencing the Warriors to a paltry 2-of-20 (10.0%) clip.

Grant Gibbs’ “bench mob” gutted the lead out to 20 a few minutes into the frame as an Olivier Sarr and-one conversion coupled with two Melvin Frazier Jr. layups pioneered a 7-2 opening run, and a 22-point advantage. The Blue clued on the Warriors’ opening comeback effort, maintaining a 20-point lead and then some by the midway point, sticking five-consecutive baskets in the paint, before a D.J. Wilson stepback amassed the margin to 24 points. Santa Cruz made Oklahoma City second guess themselves in the backend of play as the group churned out 12 points unanswered for a 10-point game, but a pair of Tre Mann baskets, splotched in with a Paul Watson Jr. three, made the Warriors’ play a case of too little, too late. At the horn, the Blue rose on the high side 85-71. 

The Blue primarily hoisted the victory as a result of their astounding third-quarter play, but their overall coat of performers was a point of emphasis. Though the group mounted five men in double figures, the team shot a subpar 35-of-90 (38.9%) from the field while going a chalky 9-of-38 (23.7%) from beyond the arch. Oklahoma City entered Sunday’s contest atop the G-League in rebounds, and with 58 boards salvaged, it’s unlikely they will fall off the board-chasing podium. The Blue shared the ball an ample amount of times, as though they didn’t exceed the 30-assist benchmark they set earlier in the year, they logged a respectable 23 assists in play. 

Santa Cruz dwindled in production as play progressed, leaving their numbers in a wastebasket in terms of efficiency. The Warriors went below 30 percent on the evening shooting a lowly 25-of-88 (28.4%) in full, dropping even further for a 20-percent hit rate from deep, going 7-of-35 to get there. Axel Toupane led Santa Cruz in the point column with 16 points, but the forward shot an unappealing clip to get there, finishing his 31-minute campaign shooting 4-of-16 from the floor with a blank 0-of-8 slate from downtown. Jeff Dowtin broke into double-digits both times in the baseball set notching 13 points in the game, but he also fell victim to inefficiency — ending the game on a 6-of-18 (1-of-4 3PT) egg. Jordan Bell tallied a double-double in 24 minutes, outclassing the Blue’s bigs for 12 points (6-of-10 FG) and 15 rebounds. 

Tre Mann racked up his best performance as a professional as the 20-year-old led the Blue with a commanding 18 points and 12 rebounds. Mann was keen on taking shots at the perimeter, heavily leaning on his stepback to create distance, and rise up for the take. Mann lofted up nine threes on the game, nailing three, to bolster his stat sheet, but the former Gator paved his own space inside, as well, tacking in a pair of floaters and two free throws to dish out a 6-of-19 shot chart. As a rebounder, Mann took all but one of his snags on the defensive end, sneaking into crevices on box-outs to come out with the ball. 

D.J. Wilson garnered praise from Grant Gibbs entering Sunday’s contest, and in the 25-year-old’s first start of the year — there is more positivity to come from Coach Gibbs. Wilson took a more inside-out approach to play, working his way into the post for entry passes and cuts to mark the board to end with 13 points and 17 rebounds. Wilson added an otherwise untapped element to his game with five assists, smoothly operating in the midrange as a facilitator to net teammates on the cut or pop. The 25-year-old made a SportsCenter-Esque run in his 31 minutes, slicing inside from the left elbow before scurrying inside off a moving spin, ultimately leading to a jam.

Theo Maledon enlivened the Blue to open the game, but he lost an ounce of his luster in the second half. Maledon ended the night off an impressive 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, but the 20-year-old failed the riddle in any second-half baskets, shooting 0-of-5 in the draining 24 minutes. Maledon’s aggression has spurred up since making his G-League debut as the Frenchman has taken a stark kick in ball-handling ability since entering assignment.

Olivier Sarr posted a sweet touch off the bench adding 11 points and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes. Sarr has risen up to the occasion both times Grant Gibbs has looked his way this season as the former Demon Deacon has reveled in interior play for shots around the basket while even broadening out to the three. Sarr was a non-factor from beyond-the-arch, missing both of his three-point tries, but he did bring a near-complete package.

Paul Watson Jr. basked in shooting on Saturday with 15 shots, but a feeble four makes held the 26-year-old to 10 points on the game. Watson Jr. stood as the Blue’s top catch-and-shoot option as a perimeter lurker, but the shots couldn’t find their rhythm — ending on a sour-noted 2-of-9 venture from distance. Watson Jr. dipped his toes in the water in crashing the boards, finishing the game with 7 — but certainly the forward will be looking to improve as a shot-maker next game.

The Oklahoma City Blue (2-2) will take a four-day break before heading the West Coast to face the Agua Caliente Clippers (0-0) in their regular-season opener.

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