Following a four-day escapade, the Oklahoma City Blue washed the Agua Caliente Clippers 108-100. For the Blue, their victory on Thursday improved their record to 4-1. In the case of the Clippers, their loss etched their second loss on the season, as they now sit at 3-2.
Agua Caliente rolled into the first frame on an inside-out frenzy as the group fueled a 16-10 advantage through six minutes led by seven points from Serge Ibaka. The Blue’s bench unit came into the fold in the period’s final three minutes as fueled by a Zavier Simpson hook shot, a Lindy Waters III layup and an Olivier Sarr fastbreak buzzer-beater — Oklahoma City drew the game to one-possession down 24-21 to close the quarter.
The Clippers opted to roll out their starters versus Grant Gibbs’ second unit for the second quarter’s onset — it yielded success. Agua Caliente surged to a double-digit lead 90 ticks into the period with an 8-0 run, however a three apiece from Vit Krejci and Rob Edwards nipped the deficit to five by the eight-minute mark. A four-minute cold spell for the Clippers paved the way for Oklahoma City to jump back into play, and with three-consecutive Theo Maledon layups, they managed to knot the contest to 37-all just inside four minutes. Serge Ibaka rose up to the occasion in capping the first half, as the 32-year-old logged the Clippers’ last 6-of-8 points en route to a 46-43 advantage at half.
The first minute of the second half reminisced that of the first as Agua Caliente converted two-consecutive buckets to spur on the half — but Oklahoma City came back with heavy ammunition. The Blue placed a scoring tangent to open the third, canning seven-straight shots in the sunset stages to boast a 17-5 run in a span of minutes. By the midway point, the Blue’s lead inflated to 14 following a Theo Maledon bankshot and a Vit Krejci trifecta. At their peak, Oklahoma City bottled a 28-5 run in the frame’s starting eight minutes for a 20-point, 71-51 lead. By the closing of the period, the Blue hooked onto an 82-64 lead.
Agua Caliente played in survival mode to tee off the fourth quarter, but once buckets started pouring in, Gibbs’ group was there to retaliate. The Clippers the Blue’s seam to a 14-point margin at the three-minute mark, but two Theo Maledon triples fended the opposition out of competition. Ultimately, holding the Blue victorious 108-100.
Ibaka battles Bricktown
The biggest storyline heading into Thursday’s contest surrounded a familiar face within the Thunder organization — Serge Ibaka. Ibaka, the Oklahoma City’s starting power forward for six seasons, took a dip into G-League play for the Clippers in efforts to bounce back from a previously suffered back injury.
With the Oklahoma City Blue missing the services of Isaiah Roby following a team recall, Grant Gibbs’ placed former first-round pick D.J. Wilson in Ibaka’s way. Ibaka took full advantage of his size and experience against Wilson, slashing at will versus the 25-year-old for 20 shot attempts — drilling nine. Ibaka’s end stat line produced 22 points (9-of-20 FG) and 14 rebounds in 30 minutes, however, the 32-year-old fizzled from distance for a 2-of-8 palate.
Theo turns up the heat
After falling out of grace within the Thunder’s primary rotation, Theo Maledon has spent the last week sharing ball-handling duties with Tre Mann for the Blue. As a byproduct of the Thunder’s positional battle, Mann remained with the Thunder for Thursday evening, leaving Theo in the spotlight against the Clippers. He delivered. Maledon erupted in his star role, grinding out a game-high 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists in 33 minutes with the Blue. Maledon played a pivotal role in the Blue’s second-quarter comeback and fourth-quarter closing as the 20-year-old canned three-straight layups to tie the game in the second frame before hitting back-to-back threes in the fourth to put the contest out of reach.
As of now, Tre Mann looks to be on path to remain with the Thunder for the course of their three-game road stand. If that remains the case, Maledon should have full point-guard duties for their back-to-back set over the weekend.
Oklahoma City made a name for themselves from downtown Thursday, canning 17-of-43 (39.5%) tries from distance throughout play.
The Thunder opened the night with inside-oriented play with a slew of dribble drives and high-ball screens, but as the contest turned to clutch time — they lived from distance. In the third frame, Oklahoma City converted on 8-of-10 triples to headline a 39-18 period, and the seeds for their double-digit lead.
Rob Edwards took the lead role as Oklahoma City’s sharpshooter as the 24-year-old drilled 5-of-9 three pointers in a 22-minute stint. Edwards’ final stat line saw the guard log 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting while adding one assist and one rebound.
Outside of Thunder assignee Theo Maledon, Paul Watson Jr. and Vit Krejci checked in respective 28 and 26 minute gigs on Thursday.
Paul Watson Jr. silently reached double figures as the wing accrued 12 points in a 5-of-13 piecing that included a 2-of-6 hit rate from deep range. Watson Jr. also tacked on seven boards.
Vit Krejci churned out 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists off of the bench, making his living from beyond-the-arch. Krejci, who is well-known for his slashing ability, played a backseat role on Thursday, instead shooting 6-of-7 shots from distance, draining a trio of attempts. Krejci’s defensive ability netted the Blue two steals in play, including a last-second strip that resulted in a fastbreak buzzer-beater.
Next up, the Oklahoma City Blue (4-1) will take on the South Bay Lakers (1-1) in a back-to-back set.