1) Adams returns: Steven Adams returned this game after missing the previous two games due to a left knee contusion. Adams finished this game with an 11 point and 11 rebound double double. Adams looked healthier and fresher this game, finishing second on the team in net rating this game at 20.4 in 25 minutes. On the defensive side though, Adams struggles continued, finishing with a team high defensive rating of 106.1. Adams scored 8 points on 3-3 shooting in the first half but struggled to assert himself in the second half.
2) Battle of Ds: Coming into this game, the Thunder (3rd) and the Magic (5th) were ranked in the top five in the NBA in team defensive rating. This game turned out to be as ugly and defensively good as advertised. The Magic only scored 94 points on 39.0/ 13.6/ 87.1 shooting splits including an NBA season low three team three pointer this game. The Thunder started the game off hot, scoring 58 points in the first half, but the Magic settled down and gave up just 44 second half points on 43.0% shooting. The Thunder were able to shoot and make shots from the perimeter, shooting 12-33 form three (36.4%) against a team that was allowing opponents to shoot 29.2% from three this season before this game.
3) SGAs efficient game: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to impress, finishing with 24 points on an efficient 9-14 shooting and finishing with a team high +/- of +14. Gilgeous-Alexander continues to score in a variety of ways, in this game five of his made field goals came in the paint while the other free made field goals came from three. It appears that Gilgeous-Alexander’s signature shot will be his scope layups, attempting it multiple times every game so far this season. Gilgeous-Alexander stepped up in the fourth quarter of a close game scoring five points.Gilgeous-Alexander has scored over 20 points in five of his seven games this season, he only had six of those games in 82 games last season.
4) CP3 performs well: Chris Paul finished with 20 points on 6-15 shooting and had six assists and three steals while finishing with no turnovers for the first time this season. Paul came up huge in the fourth quarter, taking the role of closer by scoring eight points in eight minutes on a quarter high of 35.3 usage percentage.
5) OKC executes in the fourth quarter: The Thunder entered the fourth quarter with a 81-79 lead and was one possession game as late as 4:44 mark. The Thunder finished the game on a 14-7 run that included a 7-0 outburst that took place from 4:21 to 1:56 that stretched the Thunder’s lead to 95-87. The Thunder scored 14 points on 4-5 shooting in the final 4:44 of the game while holding the Magic to just seven points on 3-8 shooting. Early on in the season the Thunder would struggle in close games but that was the complete opposite this game. That might have to do with the fact that this group of players are getting more comfortable with each other.
6) Poor bench performance: The Thunder bench struggled this game, getting outscored by the Magic bench 39 to 26. Dennis Schroder had his worst game of the season scoring just five points on 2-11 shooting with a net rating of -3.1 and a +/- of -1. Darius Bazley scored 10 points on 4-11 shooting while grabbing six rebounds with a net rating of 0.0. Hamidou Diallo also had his worst game this season scoring just six points on 2-5 shooting with a team worst net rating of -8.9. Nerlens Noel was the Thunder’s best bench player tonight scoring five points and grabbing five rebounds while having a monster block shot. Noel only took two shots and an argument could be made that some of the shots the other bench players were taking should’ve been given to Noel on more efficient shots in the paint.
7) Gallinari struggled shooting: Danillo Gallinari struggled shooting the ball this game, scoring 16 points on 6-17 shooting, including 3-10 from three. Gallinari was given some good looks from three but failed to make most of them. It was a poor shooting night for Gallinari but if he continues to get the open looks he got tonight he will make them more cases than not.
8) Ferguson in foul trouble: Terrance Ferguson returned to action tonight after playing just five minutes the previous game due to flu-like symptoms. Ferguson scored just five points on 2-3 shooting while only managing to play 23 minutes due to being in foul trouble most of the game, finishing with five fouls. Ferguson led the team in offensive rating at 127.9 and net rating at 125.6. This could be a case of small sample size since he finished seventh on the team in playing time and had the lowest usage percentage at 6.3 but still an impressive stat nonetheless for Ferguson. Ferguson made a nice little turn around mid-ranger jumper in the first quarter, an encouraging sign that maybe Ferguson will start looking for more shots for the rest of the season with him only averaging 2.7 field goal attempts per game this season, a massive step back from his 5.8 field goal attempts from last season. Which is puzzling in itself since Ferguson was seen as a candidate for a bigger role on offense now that Russell Westbrook & Paul George are gone and he is no longer going to be limited to just a three and D player.
9) Schroder over Ferguson to close the game: Dennis Schroder played the entire fourth quarter in a close game where he was struggling. Schroder scored zero points on 0-4 shooting in the fourth quarter, finishing with more shot attempts in that quarter than Gallinari, Gilgeous-Alexander and Adams. Meanwhile Ferguson, who was having great on-court numbers this game and has a role in this team’s future, played zero minutes in a close game. The decision to player Schroder the entire fourth quarter and let Ferguson ride the bench is a questionable one at best for head coach Billy Donovan and would’ve been a bigger issue if the Thunder ended up losing this game.
10) Gallinari’s free throw streak ends: Danillo Gallinari entered this game a perfect 23-23 from the free throw line this season. Gallinari had his first missed free throw this game late in the fourth quarter at the 30.2 second mark. Gallinari is now shooting just 96.0% from the line this season. Gallinari shot 90.4% on free throws last season and is a career 87.2% shooter from the line.