OKC take down the Hawks 118-109 in their first meeting of the year. The matchup included a first-half kit clash followed by a second half jersey change, as Oklahoma’s sunset orange and Atlanta’s red jerseys made for a difficult viewing and playing experience. OKC changed at halftime to their white jerseys, as apparently the Hawks have only brought their red jerseys for their 5-game road trip. The victory became a definitive one as the game progressed, and OKC’s passing prowess was put on full display. All of the Thunders players were moving the ball with Spurs-esque fluidity, 31 of the Thunder’s 46 field-goals came from assists and everyone bar Mike Muscala tallied at least one assist.
The ball movement was helped tremendously by the addition of Ty Jerome, who had his season debut for the Thunder tonight. He tallied 7 assists, 9 points and 5 rebounds in the game in 22 minutes and gave the Thunder a different look on the bench unit than they otherwise would have, with Hamidou Diallo out with a groin injury.
The offensive rebounds kept the Hawks in the ballgame all night. Outrebounding the Thunder by 14, the Hawks managed to secure 19 offensive boards. Clint Capela and John Collins did a good job keeping the game close with their play, making up for Trae Young. Capela was playing volleyball tonight and recorded 21 rebounds of his own, whilst Collins gave the Thunder bigmen Roby and Bazley a hard time, crashing inside repeatedly and scoring 25 points of his own.
Trae Young was kept relatively quiet all night, spending most of his time on the floor in the Dorture chamber. Lu Dort kept Trae Young uncomfortable all game with his incredible defense, and Young shot 7-of-21 from the floor. The ability to defend without fouling may have been the hidden key for OKC’s win tonight, as Trae is one of the best in the league at drawing fouls and making free throws, but he ended this game with an astonishing zero, ZERO free throw attempts. For a player who normally attempts about 10 free-throws a game, this was unusual for Trae, but Lu Dort and a great defensive scheme from coach Daigneault meant they were able to contain and limit Atlanta’s biggest threat. Should Lu Dort be a lock for all-defensive team in his second year already?
The line of the night would go to Theo Maledon, the 19-year-old French rookie recorded his first double-double with 13 points and a game-high 12 assists. His experience overseas in Europe as well as having the San Antonio Spurs legend Tony Parker as a mentor shows in Maledon’s game. His composure and vision with the ball is a great asset playing next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and he is truly playing above his age so far this season.
Oklahoma City Thunder move on to the second half of their back-to-back and face the Denver Nuggets at home, with Al Horford’s return to the lineup.
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