San Francisco, CA – The Thunder stay in San Francisco to play the Warriors once again after their 128-109 victory on Thursday night. That game was without the star of the Bay Area, Steph Curry but Saturday night’s contest would be different because he came back into the lineup.
It appeared that makes a huge difference.
The game started very well for the Thunder as they moved the ball really well and got good looks in the first quarter but they didn’t play with the same defensive intestacy as they did Thursday night. Their point of attack defense wasn’t that good and they allowed the Warriors to get to their spots pretty easily.
Even though the Thunder ended the first quarter with a lead it wasn’t the best basketball. That really showed in the second quarter as the Warriors got more comfortable and started hitting shots they were missing in the first to take a 10 point lead into half time.
SGA breaks it down ➡️ Chet throws it down 👊 pic.twitter.com/RmG2sJgfoY
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) November 19, 2023
Then, what has become somewhat of a wired norm for the Thunder this season, they came out of the locker room a little sluggish and the Warriors got more comfortable and increase their lead.
It looked like it was going to be a very comfortable win for the Warriors as they went up by 18 in the third but things changed midway in the frame. The Thunder increased their defensive intensity and started to look to get better shots and it got them back into the game. Behind some much need shots for Chet Holmhgren and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder were able to make it a game going into the fourth quarter.
Insert Jalen Williams.
He had a barrage of points to start the fourth quarter to keep pace with the Warriors while the other two stars were on the bench and we were in for a classic. The game went back and fourth for the whole quarter and it came down to the last seconds.
Chet missed a very easy layup to take the lead and the Warriors got an offensive rebound that led to an Andrew Wiggins three with 1.6 seconds left and the game looked like it was over. Chet had other plans though.
He redeemed himself in a big way and hit the shot to tie the game to send it to overtime.
Chet for the tie! pic.twitter.com/dGOECoxdUL
— The Daniel Bell© (@BasketballGuruD) November 19, 2023
Once in overtime, Shai put the game to bed and let everyone in The Bay know why he was First Team All NBA last season putting up 10 of his points in OT to take a 130-123 victory and move their win streak to four.
Here are the 3 reasons for the win:
1) Defending the paint
The Warriors are the worst paint scoring team in the NBA but holding them under their average of 40 points there was key. The Thunder only allowed 36 points there but more importantly, they made it tough.
Their point of attack defense was a little shaky at times but for the most part, they did a decent job and that made it really tough for the Warriors to get decent looks in the paint. That consequently made them take more threes which could backfire but it ended up working out for the Thunder who defended the three point line decently. It could have been better because they hit 18 on 39% but had they not defended they way they did it would have been more on higher efficiency.
2) Kept turnovers low, again
The Western Conference this year is a dog fight. There aren’t going to be many blowouts for teams this year and that makes it so much more important to protect the ball and not give teams extra possessions.
The Thunder have once again done that against the Warriors. This is a huge reason for the win.
Giving a team like the Warriors extra possessions is an easy way to lose a game because they feed off of those turnovers and especially feed off of the crowd’s energy in those moments.
The Thunder only gave up the ball 12 times (really 11 because they let the shot clock run out when they had the game won) against the Warriors and in a game that went to OT, giving the ball up more than that would have likely cost them the game.
3) Stars being stars
There is something to be said for having the best players on the floor and the Thunder had the two best. When your stars show up more than the other team’s stars it makes things a lot easier.
And boy, did Chet and SGA show up. Shai put up 40 points while Chet had a new career high and first 30 point game with 36. They are the first Thunder teammates to both put up 35+ in the same game since Russell Westbrook and Paul George did so in 2019.
We can’t forget about Jalen Williams who had a dominant start to the fourth keeping the game close enough to have a chance.
Getting performances like this one is extremely rare but when they both play like this and look unstoppable, they will be very hard to beat.
The Thunder were led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who had, what seemed like a quiet 40 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks while Chet Holmgren added a career high 36 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Jalen Williams was a key part to the victory with a hot start to the 4th quarter and added 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists.
The Thunder will look to make it 5 in a row in the second night of a back to back Sunday on the road in Portland agains the Blazers.