Thunder registered assists on 29 of 37 points scored and hit 16 three-pointers, but the Charlotte Rally in the third quarter put enough distance between the Hornets and Thunder to result in an OKC defeat.
After three consecutive doubles performances, all defined by a one-sided first quarter, Thunder was determined to take a positive step forward during the midfield of this four-game home stand. That goal was achieved when the Thunder played an extremely competitive first half against the Charlotte Hornets, keeping this game on two possessions from 3:30 in the first quarter until 5:30 from the third leg.
On defense, the Thunders were more locked up and together, even as newcomers like Jaylen Hoard and Justin Robinson mingled longer. The ball skipped the rim in the attack and found an open teammate as Thunder amassed 15 assists on their 18 points in the first half.
“We were really aggressive,” said head coach Mark Daigneault. “We hit the color with the ball. We kept moving. We really tried to share that. “
The offense primarily flowed through the hands of Thunder’s two 19-year-old rookies, Alexei Pokusevsky and Thé Maledon, both of whom scored 25 points during the night. They are the only pair of Thunder rookie teammates to score 20 or more points in the same game for the second time this season. Pokusevski lit up behind the 3-point line, performing his first four shots from depth to 7 total points in the game, the highest rookie in OKC history, and most tied by any NBA rookie of the season.
The seven-legged fell into the jumpers in cold blood with patience due to the tireless outstretched arms of the opponent, but also rammed his nose in provoking the challenge of driver Charlotte on the edge, beating the press across the field dribbling 94 meters all the way to the hoop and grabbing a few physical jumps when he finished with 9 boards and 4 assists .
“Work pays off. We just have to keep working because we play well, which is good, but we have to keep practicing well and still playing hard, “said Pokuševski.
Meanwhile, Maledon attacked in a variety of ways, reaching all the way to the edge on some drives, knocking down a trio of threes and then calmly hitting middle-class jumpers as the Hornets tried to pull him out of the bow.
“We are really optimistic about these guys and the many guys we have,” Daigneault said. “They played great tonight because they got better and they got better because of the approach they took.”
The Thunder reduced the Hornets ’lead to just three points to 80-77 just before the end of the third quarter, but Charlotte got a couple of spoons out of her backyard – Terry Rozier’s stuttering bucket and Devonta’ Graham’s triple to push their lead back to eight before the quarter-break. That race continued in the fourth frame, as the Thunder turned the ball around three times, while Charlotte quickly ran into a 7-0 to make the series a full 12-0. This created some insurmountable separation between the teams during the last 10 minutes of regulation.
Tonight’s game of the match happened multiple times, and Pokuševski and Kenrich Williams used the same technique to shake off the aggressive quarterback. Coming out of the locker room at half-time with some extra perspective, Pokuševski dribbled towards a teammate from the top, but felt the two Charlotte defenders lean into the switch to try to stop OKC’s dribbling action. Pokuševski copied on the throw, turning at the last second towards the lane to surprise his defenders. The result was a light finish on the edge of the right hand on the left side of the hoop.
A few minutes later, Williams used the same tactic – his game eventually ended in a jump after the offense was reviewed and annulled, but the result was less important than the proper use of the fake-out. Taking advantage of pressing, aggressive defenses against yourself is one way to win small battles in the game.
“It’s just a kind of counter against switching,” Daigneault said. “It’s just one of the little tricks you can use against a replacement team. Those guys recognized that well. ”
Number of both rebounds for Kenrich Williams in the game, with nine assists for a versatile career striker. Despite shooting only 2 for 12, Williams found other ways to influence the game, as he usually does. Williams broke the glass to help create extra possession for his team or stop Charlotte’s second hope, while attacking the rebound and finding teammates at the dunk spot, or spreading behind the 3-point line.
– OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 8, 2021
“It was an approach and a will to really be competitive. It was something we looked at in practice and it’s something we tried to put on the floor. Really to stick together and be competitive, even though mistakes happen, make sure you turn around we put our backs in the defensive end or added a pass to another player to score a better shot. So that was actually the point and that’s something we have to pass on for the future and the next game. ”
– Theo Maledon
“We are competitively back on track. We really competed for 48 minutes. We really got together and played together and tried to solve problems together. They were a better team. They executed us a little, but tonight we really fought and competed. ”
– Coach Daigneault
“They were a better team … but we really fought and competed tonight. I was really happy with it.”
– Bally Sports Oklahoma (@BallySportsOK) April 8, 2021
After a great step towards Charlotte, Thunder returns to action to continue his home game against the enemies of the Eastern Conference, lining up against the Cleveland Cavaliers the second night in the back.
– Bally Sports Oklahoma (@BallySportsOK) April 8, 2021