NBA

Team effort leads Thunder past Bulls in 124-110 win

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It felt like fatigue started to set in for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Playing on the second night of a road back-to-back and the third game in four nights, the Thunder — who are usually money in the third quarter — struggled coming out of halftime.

The Thunder ultimately pulled away and won their game against the Bulls, 124-110.

But that didn’t happen without some adversity.

The Chicago Bulls closed out the third quarter on a 28-11 run in the final 10 minutes. After the Thunder went up 80-62 in the opening two second-half minutes, they ran out of juice. The extended Bulls run turned it into a one-point game by the start of the fourth quarter.

It felt like this game was going to come down to the final possessions and likely conclude with a duel between Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Zach LaVine.

Instead, by the time Gilgeous-Alexander checked into the fourth quarter at the 4:39 mark, OKC’s lead grew from one point to 10 points.

The non-SGA lineup, led by Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams, outscored the Bulls 17-8 in the first seven minutes of the quarter.

This seven-minute stretch highlighted the type of young depth the Thunder roster. They are no longer a franchise who solely relies on elite talent to bail them out like previous iterations.

What a luxury to have.

The Thunder not only held their own, but actually grew their lead with their All-Star on the bench and afforded him an extended period of rest.

The Thunder continue to be maestros with the basketball, scoring 124 points in regulation on 47-of-92 (51.1%) from the field. This included going 11-of-33 (33.3%) from 3. From the free-throw line, the Thunder shot an impressive 19-of-22 (86.4%).

In their last seven games, the Thunder are averaging 125.7 points on 50.1% shooting and 26.9 assists. From outside, the Thunder are shooting 40.3 percent from 3 on 34.7% shooting.

Since the 150 point explosion against the Boston Celtics, the Thunder are suddenly an offensive juggernaut.

The small Thunder dominated the Bulls inside, outscoring 64-44 in the paint.

All 10 players who checked in for the Thunder scored at least three points. Nobody took more than 18 shots. It was a well-balanced offensive attack that displayed OKC’s depth and synergy.

For the Bulls, Zach LaVine struggled to make an impact. While LaVine scored 25 points, he also went an inefficient 5-of-19 from the field. LaVine did most of his scoring at the free-throw line, going 14-of-15 with 11 of those attempts occurring in the fourth quarter.

Nikola Vucevic also recorded a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds. Patrick Williams scored 11 of his 18 points in the third quarter. Coby White finished with 19 points off the bench.

The young Thunder had every reason to lose this game as it felt like a scheduled loss. Instead, they continue to show the rest of the league that they’re knocking on the door a lot sooner than most anticipate.

Let’s take a look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: B

Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

While it wasn’t his loudest performance, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played within the flow of the offense and finished with a solid 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting and went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.

Gilgeous-Alexander also finished with six assists, five rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Gilgeous-Alexander continues to cause turnovers, mostly from using his length to disrupt passing lanes and blindsiding opposing players by poking the ball out of their hands.

Most of Gilgeous-Alexander’s scoring happened in the first half, where he scored 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

Josh Giddey: A-plus

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

With Gilgeous-Alexander taking more of a backseat, Josh Giddey thrived and had one of his best games of the season.Giddey finished with 25 points — tying a season-high — on 11-of-18 shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.

This is back-to-back 20-plus point games for Giddey, who continues to look like a legitimate scoring option for the Thunder.

The opening two minutes of the second half foreshadowed the type of half Giddey was about to endure. The first eight Thunder points all came from Giddey as he spearheaded a game-high 18-point lead. following a three-pointer.

In the second half, Giddey scored 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

Giddey continues to take advantage of his size as he scored 18 of his points inside the paint. Giddey and Gilgeous-Alexander continue to play seamlessly together — which might be the most important development of the season.

Darius Bazley: A

Like Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault alluded to after the win, Darius Bazley could’ve easily mentally checked out on the team as he plays a season-low in minutes and has been on the receiving end of several DNPs.

Instead, Bazley stayed ready and turned in his best performance of the season.

In 22 minutes off the bench, Bazley finished with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting and went 5-of-7 from the free-throw line. Bazley also added four rebounds and three steals.

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Bazley was a plus-18 on the floor, which was tied for second-best on the Thunder.

Bazley played a key role in the fourth quarter as all three of his steals happened in the final period. It was clear Daigneault trusted Bazley tonight as he played the full 12 minutes of the fourth quarter.

While his future with the Thunder is likely on borrowed time, Friday was a nice remember that Bazley can still contribute in the NBA.

Jalen Williams: A-plus

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

At 6-foot-6 and a stocky 195 pounds, Jalen Williams continues to use his build to be a machine inside the paint.

After a little bit of a starting lineup fiasco, Williams finished with 22 points on an efficient 10-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists in his 17th consecutive start.

Williams was a game-high plus-23 in his 34 minutes.

Inside the paint, Williams shot a perfect 9-of-9 for 18 points.

With the Thunder playing a close game, Williams led them in fourth-quarter scoring with nine points.

At this point, Williams has normalized these high-scoring, high-efficiency performances. What a rookie season for the 12th-overall pick.

HIGHLIGHTS

Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire



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