Official Box Score link
The OKC Thunder beat the New Orleans Pelicans on a Saturday afternoon. I won’t go over game details because you either watched the game or you can read the box score or game notes 100 other places.
This game was all about the second coming of Thunder U and the Thunder crowd’s uproarious response. The two very most important things in the eyes of the Thunder organization were major positives today.
The young building blocks of the future were equal parts thrilling and impactful. Shai once again stood out and looked like he was headed to set his career high scoring mark for the third time this season, as he had 18 at halftime and 23 at the end of the third quarter. But Jrue Holiday stuck to SGA like glue in the fourth, so Shai’s first 30 point game will have to wait. Probably not for long. Hamidou Diallo put on a dunking clinic and raised the decibels in The Peake every time he touched the ball. And Darius Bazley showed why he’s carried around the “if he played college ball, he would’ve been a Top 10 pick” tag with him since the draft. It was a coming out game for the endearingly charming rookie, and the sky is the limit with his length, size and skill set.
On the Thunder’s final offensive possession, the Thunder crowd, probably at about 70% capacity, all stood to their feet and gave a loud, long, appreciative and purposeful ovation for their team. The possession hilariously ended with an out of control Chris Paul pass that sailed over Gallo and shot out of bounds. But at the final buzzer, The Peake once again let out a roar, a cheer as loud as any post-game wins last season. No, it wasn’t quite as epic as the legendary ovation after the upstart and surprising Thunder lost their first playoff series to the Lakers, but it was a special moment that seemed to say, “we still love our team.”
Thunder U is back, and the OKC fans seems to be catching on. The Thunder beating the Pelicans is just details.
- Mike Muscala’s red hot shooting on wide open 3’s carried over to this game. The Pelicans had no answer.
- The Thunder ran a lineup of Schroder, Burton, Nader, Bazley and Muscala. I was all ready to write a snarky note making a joke about how terrible that lineup was, but they weirdly increased OKC’s lead during their time on the court.
- Watching the new edition Thunder U of Shai, Bazley and Diallo lead a fast break gave me some kinds of feelings thinking back to a former Thunder U point guard, shooting guard and small forward comprised Big 3.
- Today was a banner day for the second coming of Thunder U. Shai, Bazley & Diallo all in double digits and outplayed the much touted Lakers’ former young core of Lonzo, Hart and (an injured) Ingram.
- If the Thunder have any concerns about attendance, they need to give Hamidou Diallo 48 minutes a game and implement the all-dunks-all-the-time offensive game plan. Butts will be in seats.
- Chris Paul is the Thunder’s most famous player. Shai is the Thunder’s most important player. Steven Adams is the Thunder’s most popular player. Gallo is the Thunder’s most polished offensive player. But Hamidou Diallo is by far the Thunder’s most exciting player.
- Darius Bazley let them fly today. The promising rookie went 3/6 from 3. He also was a perfect 4/4 from the free throw line. If he develops a shot to go along with those handles and passing ability at 6’9″? Nice. (I tweeted this and nobody picked up on the hidden joke. I know DT won’t let me down).
- Hamidou Diallo and JJ Redick guarding each other is fascinating. I can’t think of two more polar opposite shooting guards.
- Forget Thunder U 2.0. Forget the win. Forget Bazley blossoming right in front of our eyes and drool-worthy Diallo dunks. By far and away the most important development of the game: Billy Donovan used a coach’s challenge.
- Dennis Schroder is putting himself in the conversation for 6th Man of the Year. OKC’s backup point guard put up another 17 points today, grabbed 9 boards, hit clutch shots to help seal the game, and was a team-leading +20. Besides having something fun for Thunder fans to to root for, 6th Man buzz is great news for Sam Presti’s trade deadline options.
- Zach Collins is going to have to have surgery on his shoulder, leaving the Portland Trailblazers without a reliable forward. They want to compete this year and had already been linked in rumors to Danilo Gallinari. Presti is a master of striking when a team is vulnerable and needy. Stay tuned.