3 Thunder Takeaways: Late Free Throws Help Thunder Edge Pelicans In New Orleans


Wednesday, January 6th 2021, 10:06 pm
By: Nate Kotisso


OKLAHOMA CITY -

For the second time in a little more than a week, Oklahoma City won a road game against a team which already beat it on its home floor.

The win pushes the young Thunder’s road record to 3-1 on the season. Go figure.

Monday’s listless performance against the Miami Heat is now a distant memory after what the Thunder pulled off on Wednesday.

As competitive as Oklahoma City has looked early in games this season, the fourth quarter has been this team’s Achilles heel. It was a horrific seven-point final period against New Orleans that marred OKC’s worst loss of the season on New Year’s Eve.

The only game where the Thunder outscored its opponent in the final quarter happened in Orlando last Saturday, a nine-point win.

OKC was outpaced in the fourth again on Wednesday, but it’s not about always about how many points that matters. When the scoring comes through can make all the difference in the world.

Two made free throws by George Hill with 12.1 seconds left were just enough for Oklahoma City to scoot by the New Orleans Pelicans 111-110 on Wednesday night in New Orleans.


First Takeaway: The Thunder Offensive

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault joined the Oklahoma City Thunder radio broadcast prior to Wednesday night’s game to talk shop. Play-by-play broadcaster Matt Pinto asked Daigneault about his team’s search for a balanced offense, despite the Thunder hoisting the third-most 3-point attempts in the entire NBA (40.8 attempts) entering Wednesday.

Daigneault gave Pinto an interesting response, alluding to the volume of perimeter shots as something that’s “not by design.” He also noted that the players build the offense on a “possession by possession” basis.

Someone should have told the Thunder players his philosophy, considering the team made four 3-pointers within the game’s first three minutes. Oklahoma City ended the first half with a franchise-record 29 3-point attempts and finished with a total of 46 for the game.

Fortunately for OKC, the Thunder made 19 from beyond the arc (41.3 percent).


Second Takeaway: Going Ham-idou

It’s the best running joke on the Thunder roster, and it’s hilariously true.

Reserve guard Hamidou Diallo, at 22 years old, is the longest tenured member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

All laughing aside, Diallo has taken his newfound stature to heart. Now, his play reflects his initiative.

Diallo, long known as a wiry guard who can guard multiple positions, has turned into an offensive force off the bench. We’ve seen him show no fear taking players off the dribble and contorting himself to finish strong at the rim. Including Wednesday, Diallo has scored at least nine points in four of OKC’s last five games and that’s before mentioning his status as the bench’s best rebounder.

Speaking of the bench, Mike Muscala experienced temporary insanity early in the fourth quarter. As the Thunder lead dwindled to one point, Muscala came alive and drilled three 3-pointers in a row to expand the Thunder lead to 10 points. The Bucknell graduate accounted for five 3-pointers.


Third Takeaway: Care When It Counts

A large part of the Thunder’s multiple double-digit leads in the second half were thanks to how well it was taking care of the basketball.

OKC turned the ball over seven times in the first three quarters but fortunes changed when it loss the ball seven more times in the final quarter alone.

The game was starting to slip away from the Thunder when Pelicans forward Zion Williamson turned Darius Bazley over and finished with a bucket on the other end to give New Orleans a 101-100 lead with three minutes to play.

From that point on, the Thunder played error-free basketball. The error-free play didn’t guarantee a Thunder comeback win, but it gave the players a chance to get one.

Sometimes, a chance can be all you need.