Although Oklahoma City played shorthanded, they could snap the Houston Rockets’ 6-game winning streak Wednesday by winning 104-87.
When asked about having just 10 guys available tonight due to players having G League assignments and injuries, Kenrich Williams mentioned pregame that the team believes in the “Next Man Up” mentality.
“Come in and get guys in their spots, make the extra pass and play together as a team,” said Williams. “I think that’s the main focus; everything else will fall in place for us.”
Williams did a great job at leading by example tonight. Williams had his best game of the season, finishing with 19 points.
But the box score itself does not justify Williams’ impact on the game. Williams was all over the floor on both sides of the basket, closing out beautifully in the perimeter, contesting shots, getting in the right spots, and making the correct offense decisions.
The Oklahoma City Thunder started the game with 10 players but finished with nine after Lu Dort injured his knee and was ruled out for the game after only playing nine minutes.
This meant that the only Opening Day starters who finished the game were Al Horford and Darius Bazley. Both stepped up in their own ways and were great.
In Bazley’s case, he scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Bazley was much more active with his offense. Horford contributed 17 points and did a great job at passing out of the post on designed plays.
Horford also did a great job defending Christian Wood and limiting his production, as the big man only finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds.
The other big contributors were Hamidou Diallo and Isaiah Roby. Diallo started in place of SGA and finished with 16 points. Roby came off the bench and outplayed both Houston Rockets centers Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins by finishing 13 points in 18 minutes.
Theo Maledon got the start once again, and while he struggled to score, putting up just 6 points, he contributed on the other side of the floor with 6 steals and doing a good job at defending the Rockets’ starting backcourt.
“He was competitive; he was matched to Gordon or Oladipo all night, which are obviously tough covers,” said Daigneault. “I just thought he had a great motor all night.”
“Next Man Up” mentality is an overused sports cliche. But tonight’s performance really backed up Williams's statement as players who usually do not get extended playing time performed well.
Tonight’s situation also speaks volumes about an NBA coach and how good they are. After a massive blowout loss, playing a game shows a team’s true colors on how bought in they are with the coaching staff.
The Thunder could make the proper adjustments and blow out the Rockets after being blown out by Monday night. These circumstances make this win even more special than usual for Head Coach Mark Daigneault.
The Thunder sounded on defense this time around and shooting 12-of-46 from three after scoring 136 points on 28-of-52 shooting from three. The Thunder were without SGA, Dort, for the most part, George Hill, and Aleksej Pokusevski, all guys who played big rotation minutes and still won this game, is very impressive for the coaching staff and overall culture of the organization.
What makes this even more impressive is that outside of John Wall's absence, the red-hot Rockets were healthy and riding a 6-game winning streak before tonight’s loss.
Next Game: The Thunder play the Minnesota Timberwolves in Oklahoma City on Friday.