Dennis Schroder's confidence is contagious in Thunder win over Suns
Dennis Schroder beelined to the Suns bench smiling and pointing behind him. There, his 3-point shot had fallen through the hoop to re-assert the Thunder’s control over the game late in the third quarter.
The Thunder would eventually beat the Suns 126-108 Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. But in the third quarter, the game went stagnant. With about five minutes left, the Thunder and Suns had combined for 13 fouls in that period alone. Then Chris Paul threw two lobs to Nerlens Noel for a quick four points, and Schroder hit the message-sending 3-pointer.
Schroder didn’t turn around until he was almost engulfed by the Suns players stepping off the bench to greet their teammates during the timeout. Without incident, Schroder turned on his heels and headed back to his own bench. He had made his point, with a smile.
Schroder’s 24 points Friday weren’t surprising. It was the 12th time this season that Schroder scored at least 20 points. Schroder’s ability to pull the Thunder back into games hasn’t only come from that consistent scoring. His nine rebounds and six assists were just as important. As was his flashy demeanor. The Thunder improved to 14-14, hitting the .500 mark for the first time this season.
“Dennis continues to play coming off the bench and giving us a huge boost,” Donovan said.
After finding his lob chemistry with Nerlens Noel earlier in the week, Schroder capitalized on it again Friday. First, in the first quarter he threw a dart just above the rim, which Noel slammed down.
Then with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, Schroder threw a no-look lob to Noel, and Noel drew a foul. His free throws gave the Thunder a 92-82 lead.
“The thing that’s encouraging to me is the way he gives players on the team confidence,” Donovan said.
- Related to this story
- Article: Recap: Thunder 126, Suns 108
- Article: Five takeaways from the Thunder's win against the Suns
- Article: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's scoop shot is back, and the Thunder is back to .500
- Article: Thunder-Suns journal: Monty Williams reflects on first season with Chris Paul
- Video: OKC Thunder - No miraculous comeback needed against Suns (Game 28 of 82)
- Video: OKC Thunder - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander vs. Suns (Game 28 of 82)
- Video: OKC Thunder - Chris Paul vs Suns (Game 28 of 82)
- Video: OKC Thunder - Danilo Gallinari vs Suns (Game 28 of 82)
That came through in the way he shared the ball. But it also was more explicit in other moments.
Early in the fourth quarter, rookie Darius Bazley passed up a 3-pointer in the left corner. He shot 1-of-4 form 3-point range Friday, but Schroder made it clear he didn’t want that to keep Bazley from taking open shots. From the opposite corner, as the play continued, Schroder clapped his hands, encouraging him to shoot that.
Before Schroder took his last field goal attempt, it was clear the Thunder bench was going to outscore the Phoenix bench. It eventually did, 44-30.
With about two minutes left in the game, Schroder drove to the basket, and as the Suns’ Elie Okobo wrapped his arm around Schroder, he tossed up a floater. It went in, and the crowd erupted. Phoenix coach Monty Williams stood at half court arguing with official Ben Taylor.
Less than a minute later, Schroder subbed out. The Thunder had a 16-point lead, and Schroder headed to the bench. But his contributions weren’t over.
As Bazley slammed down a dunk, Schroder strode onto the court, waving a towel. He mimicked Bazley’s dunk. Smiling.