Hello, WTLC! My name is Jayden Rule and I’ve recently had the privilege of coming on as a contributor here and I could not be more excited. I’m a passionate NBA and OKC Thunder fan who loves putting his thoughts about the team into words. This is my first official post here and I’d say I definitely chose a fantastic game to do it on! Looking forward to writing more for all of you in the future, let’s get into it.
With 5:41 remaining in the fourth quarter, Josh Green got the and-1 layup to fall that put the Dallas Mavericks up 95-79, their biggest lead of the night. It looked all but certain that the Thunder would fall to 2-4 on the season after a hard-fought but ultimately inadequate performance against Luka Doncic and the Mavs.
But then at the 4:53 mark, still down 16, Mark Daigneault made a surprising decision to sub the recently acquired Isaiah Joe into the ballgame. Coming into tonight, Joe had only played 7 total minutes on the season so forgive me when I say that I was rather perplexed when I looked up and saw #11 on my screen.
After cutting it to an eight-point game with just under two minutes remaining, Joe caught the kick-out pass from Dort in the corner. His head fake sends Spencer Dinwiddie flying before nailing the one-dribble pull-up. Six point game.
It would be untrue to attribute this win solely to Joe, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was as god-like as he has been all season, scoring eight points in the final four minutes of overtime. This was the make that brought the game to within three. After Darius Bazley wins the loose ball, Shai wastes no time before attacking Dorian Finney-Smith, creating separation with his left shoulder and rising up for the floating jump shot. Three-point game.
Now here we go. Down three, after getting the stop on the other end and getting out in semi-transition, Shai defers to the trailing Joe who knocks down the catch-and-shoot three. Tie game, 14.6 seconds remaining. After falling down by 16 points in what looked to be a sealed win for Dallas, the Thunder had tied the ball game at 99 apiece and Isaiah Joe was the hero.
All that was left was to get a stop on the other end and go win this thing in overtime.
“Get a stop” can be easier said than done; especially when the dude you have got to worry about is none other than Luka Doncic, one of the five best players on the planet. But then again, when you have a defensive stalwart on the perimeter like Lu Dort, things get a little easier and that is exactly what happened to close out regulation. Doncic had nowhere to go with the hounding and unrelenting presence of Dort standing in his way. The Thunder went into overtime.
This bucket by Joe from the same spot was a part of the Thunder’s lightning 8-2 start in OT to take control of the game. From the same left wing where he had been the hero of Oklahoma City moments ago, Joe knocked down the tough 28-footer plus what looks like a very obvious foul that was left uncalled.
It’s quite unfortunate that this game was on the road, you can only imagine how bonkers the Paycom Center would have gone after seeing Joe hit his second three of this overtime period over the outstretched arm of Maxi Kleber.
There was still over a minute left of basketball to play, but you get the sense that this was the dagger in the heart of Dallas, sealing the win for the Thunder.
This is one of those games that teams who have rebuilt successfully look back on once they have made it to competitiveness. This was a hard-fought win by the second-youngest squad in NBA history against a threatening team in the Western Conference. A comeback on the road, a 38-point performance from your All-Star and an underdog performance from Joe that will likely go down in the Thunder history books.
I’d love to highlight some other spectacular showings from the Thunder today. In his first game back since suffering an orbital fracture in the first six minutes of his NBA debut, masked-up Jalen Williams put together an intoxicating 13-point, 3-assist, a 4-steal performance featuring a marvellous display of his wingspan wreaking havoc for the opposing team’s ability to control the ball. With Holmgren out, many Thunder fans anticipated a year without an exciting young prospect to lose oneself in, but Williams should fill that role quite nicely.
Darius Bazley has looked fantastic this season and especially against the Mavericks. I will not shy away from admitting I have been quite low on Bazley in the last year or so and I had pessimistic thoughts on the future with his team.
However, his play has been a pleasant surprise. Maybe the number change from 7 to 55 signaled a new player after all? Bazley put up an efficient 15 points in Dallas with some scintillating defense, with this block on Doncic to end the first half being particularly invigorating.
Shai looks to be in career form and pushing for his inaugural All-Star selection. He put up 38 today and is now up to 31 points per night on the season. After a disappointing season for the most part last year, OKC’s cornerstone has bounced back exceptionally well and is putting the league on notice; reminding everyone that he’s a dangerous player who is going to be putting up big performances for a long while.
You know that the Thunder have done something special when John Hollinger is impressed, a reporter for The Athletic who is notoriously hard to impress when it comes to the Thunder.
Not sure what the Thunder are, but they're not a joke. SGA+ defense=competence. Shai looks like an All-Star. Am researching when Isaiah Joe will be supermax eligible.— John Hollinger (@johnhollinger) October 30, 2022
Joe’s spectacular 15 points on 100% shooting in only nine minutes is a true display of a guy waiting for his name to be called and stepping up to the plate perfectly when the team needed him the most.
Finishing as a +25 in only nine minutes of play (!!??), it is hard to imagine the Thunder pulling off this win without him. Joe has been waiting patiently for his opportunity to contribute. Well, it looks like he may have earned that tonight.
The Thunder are unexpectedly 3-3 to start the season, winning their last three games against the Clippers twice and the Mavericks. Is it possible that the Thunder can make a run and compete for something of significance in this conference? The answer is likely no, but this team shows astounding potential for the future and will not roll over that easily against anyone.