Tre Mann stood alone in the corner indirectly eyeing Josh Giddey on the elbow.
Locking eyes with Mann, Giddey quickly glanced away before zipping an unexpected one-handed pass to the rookie point-guard, who drained the wide-open three to break his career-high in points (19) with 8:54 remaining in the third quarter.
“He didn’t have a 30-ball,” Giddey sarcastically jabbed at Mann during the post-game press conference. Awaiting his turn at the media table, Mann peevishly shrugged off Giddey’s comment by rolling his eyes and shaking his head in the corner.
Josh Giddey with the jab at Tre Mann, “didn’t have a 30 ball” as Mann is standing right there. Mann finished with a career-high 29.— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) February 3, 2022
His reaction was great. pic.twitter.com/q2coNC1oR9
While the rookies’ relationships are blooming off the court, it’s evident that their chemistry on the floor is gelling at the perfect time. Their offensive nights were the catalyst for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s (16-34) 120-114 overtime win versus the Dallas Mavericks (29-23) on Wednesday night, extending their two-game win streak.
Missing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is out with a sprained ankle until the All-Star break, Giddey and Mann carried the Thunder’s playmaking duties offensively. Mann scored a career-high 29 points on an efficient 8-for-14 shooting (6-of-8 from three), alongside three assists, one steal and a block. The Gainesville, Florida native used his dizzying step-back jumper to muster open looks from the three all night for the Thunder.
Mann even froze Mavericks’ All-NBA forward Luka Doncic with the move at one point.
“I thought he was way more decisive, and I thought he was way more aggressive,” Head coach Mark Daigneault said of Mann after the game. ‘’ He’s always aggressive after he has the ball, but I thought it was more aggressive before it came to him tonight. He just had a mentality that he was going to rip open shots and be decisive in his actions, which is obviously something we’ve talked about a lot. He had a great shot-making night.”
Giddey quarterbacked the offense, once again, with a plethora of flashy passes tonight. The rookie forward finished the game with 14 points on 7-for-13 shooting, seven rebounds and 10 assists – just three rebounds away from his second career triple-double.
Following a three pointer from Mavericks guard Reggie Bullock, Dallas held a two-point lead with 9.6 seconds remaining. In response, Giddey threw an off-schedule pass to forward Kenrich Williams, who garnered a game-tying layup that sent the game to overtime.
After the game, the Melbourne, Australia native revealed that he ignored Daigneault’s play to pass the ball to Williams.
“Yeah we drew up the play, and I completely disregarded it,” Giddey said. “I kind of saw Luka (Doncic’s) back turned and me and Kenrich (Willaims) just started staring at each other. We’ve got a good connection on those inbound passes, and I just showed him with my eyes where to go. Then he ran around in the right spot, and I just put it right there for him.”
Oklahoma City guard Lu Dort and forward Darius Bazley played the biggest key roles for the Thunder in the closing moments of the game, however. Ultimately, Dort was unstoppable in overtime, pushing Oklahoma City’s lead to seven points by scoring 12 of his 30 points in the extra quarter. He finished with a team-high in points on 9-for-17 shooting, six rebounds and three assists.
While Bazley struggled to score offensively, tallying 13 points on a 4-of-12 night, the defensive stalwart was pivotal for OKC down the stretch. Guarding Doncic for most of the game, he tallied 11 rebounds, three steals and a block. He helped close-out Dallas offensively during the final moments of the game.
As the Thunder pivot to their next game against the Portland Trail Blazers (21-31) on Friday, Feb. 5 at 9 p.m. CT in Portland, Mann is trying to hone in on his own aggressiveness with the absence of Gilgeous-Alexander.
“(I wanted to) come out more aggressive because we’re missing (Gilgeous-Alexander), and that’s a lot of points,” Mann said “ Coach talked to me before the game and said, ‘make them make them pay for your offense, that’s why you’re out there’ “