The Oklahoma City Thunder travel down to Houston to take on the Rockets and continue their road swing, which started with a pair of blow-out losses. OKC came into this game on a two-game skid, and are 5-5 in their last ten games. Now, they take on the Houston Rockets who have lost 19 straight games but now have their three best players back with all-star caliber big man Christian Wood, veteran guard John Wall, and Victor Oladipo returning to the Rockets starting group. Despite Houston’s recent struggles, OKC came into this game as a four-point underdog.
That line from Vegas is largely due to the Thunder missing Al Horford (rest), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (shoulder), George Hill (thumb), Darius Bazley (shoulder), leaving them with just one opening-day starter still in the lineup in the form of Lu Dort. OKC was also without Josh Hall in this contest who is still sidelined with a knee injury. That left the Thunder with 11 available players, which includes Justin Jackson, Darius Miller, and Mike Muscala a group that has seen limited run in the second half of the season.
In a game that someone had to win, these two teams went at a high-tempo pace in the first quarter, the two teams went back and forth and traded runs the entire first frame. The Thunder even went on a pair of 7-0 runs.
Isaiah Roby was incredible in the first quarter, he showed off his athleticism, put the ball on the floor, found the dunker spot well, and even showed off a soft touch on a fadeaway early in the frame. Roby finished the first quarter with nine points, only missing one shot, four rebounds, an assist, and a block. Roby finished the game with18-points, eight rebounds, two assists, and a blocked shot.
Isaiah Roby showed off more of his game in this contest, the finishes around the rim including a Kyrie-like reverse layup, the fadeaway, confidence in his ability to dribble-drive to the rim, his cutting ability, and solid defense. The future is bright for the Nebraska product. Roby left this game with a hand injury and went straight to the Locker Room. However, the second-year big man did return in the fourth quarter.
Isaiah Roby is 23 year’s old, the Dallas Mavericks believed in him so much out of college they gave him the biggest deal in the history of second-round picks at the time, and after an injury-filled rookie season, he is showing why a smart organization like the Mavs believed in him. As the Thunder enter a youth movement, Roby fits the timeline a lot better than a 26-year-old Kenrich Williams.
That has to raise the question around Thursday’s deadline. Kenrich Williams can improve any contender on Thursday. He adds so much value on the court and has helped this Thunder team in more ways than describable. I, like every Thunder fan, have loved watching Kenny Hustle play in OKC. He plays with a ton of heart, energy, hustle, motor, and seems like a great guy from all the Media Interactions with him. However, the Thunder are about to face a roster crunch, and his trade value will never be higher. They could send him off to a contender Thursday, allow him to perform this way on a bigger stage, and earn an even bigger payday in the future. The Thunder are in a win-win situation with Williams. No matter which route they go, but it is something to monitor closely ahead of the March 25h deadline. With Isaiah Roby, Ty Jerome, and the young locks to be on this roster for years to come, the roster spots moving forward after you cash in 3-4 picks in the 2021 NBA Draft, and trade Al Horford, will be at a premium.
The Thunder finished the first half up 66-62, thanks to a breakout from Svi Mykhailiuk who scored his first nine points as a member of the Thunder, and even dished out a couple of assists and hauled in three rebounds. Svi went 4-for-5 in the half and even got a steal on the defensive end.
Lu Dort was the true leader on the floor for the OKC Thunder, Dort is the only opening day starter active for today’s game, and he led the team in a big way. Dort was aggressive and hunted his spots on the floor, getting 12 points and an assist in the first half. Lu Dort looked comfortable pulling up from anywhere on the floor.
OKC once led by 13 points, as the two teams went back and forth with a pair of lead changes and seeing the game get tied four times in the first half. After a run to end the first half, the rockets got within three at the ten-minute mark of the third.
In the second half, Moses Brown continued to be a walking double-double, earning yet another one before the third quarter ended. Brown poured in a 12-12 game heading into the final frame.
OKC carried a five-point lead into the final frame. Houston threw a few counter punches, but a timely Svi Mykhailiuk three put OKC back up five with four minutes to go. Victor Oladipo tried his best to will the Rockets back into as the two teams traded blows back-and-forth in the final frame.
John Wall tied the game up at the free-throw line with three minutes to go and took the lead his next time down the floor with a finish at the rim.
But then, Lu Dort did Lu Dort things. As John Wall was driving to the cup to take the lead for the Rockets, Lu Dort earned a massive block on Wall to keep OKC in the lead. Aleksej Pokusevski went to the line-up one with five seconds left and split the free throws.
The Thunder needed one more stand defensively, up two points with four seconds left. John Wall, catching it a few feet off the three-point line, and the washed-up guard who has never been accused of a sharpshooter, took a deep three in front of the outstretched arms of Lu Dort. Of course, it missed. That was the master plan but the Rockets to get them to their 20th straight loss. A long John Wall three out of a timeout. Houston is the saddest organization in professional basketball.
The Thunder finished the game with six players in double figures, 114 points, and a two point win over the dreadful Rockets. The Thunder are back in action again tomorrow with a game against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.