The Thunder were able to get back to .500 tonight in a blowout win against an improved Suns team at home. OKC was able score relatively easily and played good defense for 75% of the game. The Thunder have now won three straight games and have a two game lead with the 7th seed. Here are ten takeaways:
1) The Phoenix Suns hired Monty Williams this past offseason to be their new head coach. Williams was a hot commodity as a head coaching candidate, he spent last season as an assistant for Brett Brown on the 76ers. Williams also famously turned down the Lakers job for the Suns. Williams was an assistant here in Oklahoma City during the 2015-16 season in Billy Donovan’s rookie season. Williams left the Thunder midseason due to the tragic passing of his wife. Williams is universally loved in the basketball community and I’m sure everybody is rooting for him to succeed in Phoenix. The Suns’ coaching staff also carries two former longtime Thunder assistants in Mark Bryant and Darko Rajakovic, who both joined Williams this past offseason as well. Under Williams, the Suns have already collected 11 wins after finishing with just 19 wins last season.
2) After consecutive slow starts that plagued the Thunder to double digit deficits, Billy Donovan mentioned his concern for the slow starts after last game. Donovan said he doesn’t want a 24 minute team, he wants a full 48 minute team. The Thunder responded to his challenge by taking a 57-50 first half lead against the Suns on team shooting splits.
3) 44 points is the highest third quarter output in Thunder history. OKC went 16-21 (76.2 FG%!) in the quarter. The Suns also scored 41 points in an all offense and no defense third quarter for both teams. The Thunder were able to settle down defensively in the fourth quarter by only allowing 17 points. Overall, the Thunder did alright in three of the four quarters defensively, it’s just that third quarter that really ballooned the score.
4) The Thunder’s best player tonight was easily Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Scoring at will in the paint by recognizing the Suns had no true rim protector. Gilgeous-Alexander scored a career high 32 points on an efficient 13-18 shooting with nine of those 12 made shots coming off driving layups and scope shots. Gilgeous-Alexander also went 2-2 from three tonight and had three assists and four rebounds. Games like tonight shows how good Gilgeous-Alexander can be if he reaches his full potential, he made it look so easy and natural scoring those 32 points.
5) Another great game off the bench for Dennis Schroder. Schroder finished with 24 points on 9-19 shooting with six assists and nine rebounds. Schroder also had a team high +/- of +19 and a team high 29.6 USG%.
6) Danilo Gallinari was the Thunder’s third 20 point scorer tonight with 22 points on 8-14 shooting which included going 4-8 from three. Gallinari also grabbed six rebounds.
7) Chris Paul had a quiet but productive game tonight. Paul finished with 15 points on 5-8 shooting with seven assists. Paul wasn’t needed to do as much tonight with OKC’s other two guards carrying most of the offensive load.
8) The Thunder’s bigs were great tonight as well. Starter Steven Adams finished with 10 points and nine rebounds along with two assists and blocks. Meanwhile backup center Nerlens Noel had 10 points and five rebounds with a steal and block and four fancy alley oops. Adams and Aron Baynes banged it out a couple times that led to a couple of altercations that led to technical fouls on both players.
9) The Suns best players tonight were probably their starting backcourt. The Thunder did a great job at containing Devin Booker who only scored 18 points on 6-11 shooting. Booker, who missed the last three games due to injury, is averaging 25.0 PPG on 62.7 TS% this season. Ricky Rubio scored 24 points on 9-11 shooting and racked up eight assists.
10) Overall, this was a great offensive performance for the Thunder tonight. Scoring 126 points on an impressive 56.3/ 41.7/ 85.7 team shooting splits with 23 team assists and a 128.6 ORTG. The Thunder had six double digit scorers and everybody who checked in minus Mike Muscala scored tonight. The Thunder did it in both the paint and from three. OKC took advantage of the Suns lack of paint defense with 58 paint points and scored 30 points from three.