On the day Lu Dort was named one of the nominees for Western Conference Player of the Week, he reached the 20-point mark for the fourth game in a row.
He was the only Thunder player to do so against the Miami Heat, though, and Oklahoma City suffered a 103-90 loss to one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, yet a team that was shorthanded.
The Thunder’s job seemed easier when Miami stars Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler were ruled out pregame. Without those two-way anchors on the court, Oklahoma City may be able to create some more points and find more stops on the other end.
That was not the case. Miami’s defense was stellar, aggressively attacking guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and forcing him into one of his worst games since joining OKC. Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting as the Heat hounded him and prevented him from finding any rhythm.
Guard Tyler Herro took on the load for the Heat in the absence of Butler and Adebayo. He scored 26 points, made five 3-pointers, had seven rebounds and six assists, and recorded a plus-28 on the night.
Here are some takeaways from the game, Oklahoma City’s second loss in a row:
Better first halves
The Thunder have struggled in the first quarter this season, but in both of the last two games, they played really well overall in the first quarter and half. Against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, they were tied at 25 until the final minute of the first quarter, when Brooklyn went on a five-point tear. Facing Miami on Monday, OKC actually led by a point at the end of the frame.
Oklahoma City went on a 13-0 run in the first against the Heat, and rookie Aaron Wiggins made a pair of 3-pointers in the quarter. Those were his only six points of the night. He played 20 minutes and was a plus-2 overall.
In the second quarter, Miami outscored the Thunder by one point.
At the break, the score was 43-43, quite a low-scoring affair, but because of good defense from both teams. Oklahoma City hung in for a while before the Heat pulled ahead for good.
Lu Dort’s offense is looking legit
Dort is finishing better at the rim. He’s making his 3-point shots. He’s scoring the ball. Never in his NBA career had Dort scored at least 20 points in more than two games in a row, yet he has now done so in four games.
Over that stretch, he is averaging 22.3 points on 56.9% shooting from the field and 37.9% from 3.
He has had hot stretches before — namely at the beginning of last year, when he was shooting 40% through 17 games — but this feels more sustainable. It isn’t a random outburst of accuracy. It feels more like growth.
Darius Bazley‘s night
There were a couple positives about Bazley’s night. First, one can go no further without mentioning his five blocks. He blocked two Duncan Robinson 3-point attempts and had a one-minute stretch in the second quarter in which he recorded two other blocks.
He also made both 3-pointers he attempted.
Bazley’s shooting choices have not been great this season. He’s been open a fair amount, but he isn’t hitting at a nearly high enough clip to take some of the shots he does. A day after he attempted 13 (and made just two), Bazley took just seven shots, tied for the lowest he has this season.
He finished with seven points, seven rebounds and five blocks. It wasn’t an excellent game by any means, but he seemed to be more selective out there. It’s what he and the Thunder need until his shooting can improve.
This is the area in which Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can grow next. He’s nearing elite level of offensive play, but he struggled against the Heat’s trap defense. It’s something that the best offensive players know how to handle.
Gilgeous-Alexander faced double teams throughout last season and shot at an excellent clip, so it’s clear he has the ability. As painful as this game was, it’s one with film that he should devour. Learn how to break those defenses and create more ways to move with and without the ball, and his development will proceed as it has done each year.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was excellent, scoring 16 points and going 4-for-6 from behind the arc. He had five rebounds and a pair of assists in 26 minutes of play.
Josh Giddey had an up-and-down game, shooting just 3-for-10 from the field and missing all five 3-pointers he attempted, but he continues to round out the stat sheet. What he couldn’t do as a scorer he did for teammates, recording nine assists to go with nine rebounds — two offensive — and six points.
Tre Mann played just seven minutes and missed all three shots he took during that time. He finished the game with two rebounds, three fouls and no assists.
Wiggins played 20 minutes and had a very nice first quarter but failed to score during the rest of the game. His final stat line was six points, two rebounds and one steal.
His plus-2 was tied with Aleksej Pokusevski (11 points on 5-for-6 shooting, overall a very nice night) for the best on the team. Robinson-Earl’s minus-3 was best among Thunder starters.
After games in back-to-back nights, the Thunder will have a day off before closing out this homestretch. They will face the Houston Rockets at 7 p.m. Central Time on Wednesday.
Oklahoma City will hope for a win against Houston or risk taking a losing streak onto an Eastern Conference road trip against the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks.