The Oklahoma City Thunder used an all-hands-on-deck approach in their last outing to record just their second win of the season.
The Thunder likely will go with a similar mindset on Tuesday as they conclude their three-game homestand against the Orlando Magic.
Injury, illness and foul trouble were key contributors to Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan getting creative with his lineup in Saturday’s 115-104 victory over New Orleans.
The rearranged puzzle pieces fit nicely for the Thunder, who saw Shai Gilgeous-Alexander record 23 points to lead six players in double-digit scoring.
“I thought it was a good team win because everybody contributed,” Donovan said. “I thought at the end of the third (quarter) and throughout the beginning part of the fourth, we got really good play from our bench.”
The patchwork lineup was necessitated with starting center Steven Adams sidelined by a left knee contusion for a second straight game and understudy Nerlens Noel mired in foul trouble. To boot, Terrance Ferguson was felled by flu-like symptoms, prompting Hamidou Diallo to step up and log 29 minutes.
Danilo Gallinari drained 4 of 6 of his 3-point attempts to finish with 16 points while Chris Paul chipped in with 15 points and a season-best nine assists.
“This is actually a good team for us to play against because it gets us playing faster,” the 34-year-old Paul said. “With the young guys we got and the athleticism, if we play fast like this night-in and night-out we’ll give ourselves a better chance.”
Oklahoma City, which swept Orlando in two games last season, will attempt to emerge victorious for the 14th time in 17 encounters against a Magic team that is averaging an NBA-worst 93.5 points per game and 39.7 percent shooting from the field entering Monday. Orlando is the lone club in the league yet to reach the century mark in scoring in a game this season.
“We’re not shooting the ball well right now, but that’s going to change because we have a lot of hard workers in this locker room and guys who have put in a lot of work,” forward Aaron Gordon said.
“That will change, and we’ll start knocking down shots and put numbers on the board.”
Nikola Vucevic scored a season-high 24 points in Saturday’s 91-87 loss to Denver, which is just a shade better than the 22.0 he averaged in a pair of games versus Oklahoma City last season.
Gordon added 21 and nine rebounds on Saturday for Orlando, which is looking for more out of guard Markelle Fultz. The first overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft fared well in his first Magic start in place of point guard D.J. Augustin, pumping in nine points to go along with three steals and two assists.
“It makes me feel really good, and it’s more motivation,” Fultz said. “It’s not the end of the world or the best thing ever, but it definitely shows the trust that (coach Steve Clifford) has in me. He believes that I can help this team out.”
Augustin, who had started the previous 115 consecutive games, still logged 25 minutes. The 31-year-old finished with four points for the second straight outing.
–Field Level Media