'We ran out of gas': How the Thunder failed to put away the Heat in Chesapeake Energy Arena return
The Heat, on the seventh game of a seven-game road trip, looked ready to go home.
Miami scored just 45 points in the first half on 35% shooting.
But the defending Eastern Conference champs came to life in the second half in their 108-94 win against the Thunder on Monday night in Oklahoma City.
The Heat outscored the Thunder 34-23 in the third quarter, and Miami started the fourth quarter on a 15-0 run.
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It took the Thunder six minutes to score its first points of the fourth quarter, and Miami’s lead swelled to 18 points.
The Thunder was limited to 40 second-half points after a 54-point first half.
“We ran out of gas on the second night of a back-to-back,” guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That’s no excuse, but we are human and we get tired.”
“They just outplayed us,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of the second half. “Good lesson for us. We definitely enjoy competing against a team like them because we can learn a lot about ourselves, and they just kinda outlasted us tonight.”
Here are four other takeaways from the game:
Gilgeous-Alexander hesitated and drove past the lunging Max Strus, and then the Thunder guard jumped between Heat forwards Andre Iguodala and Jimmy Butler at the rim, where Gilgeous-Alexander put just the right amount of spin on his layup to beat the third-quarter buzzer.
“I just wanted to make a play,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I made a three on the same guy and I knew he’d be pressing up a little bit, so I created some space, hesitated, and then tried to get into the lane. Tried to go until someone stopped me and they just didn’t stop me, so I made a layup.”
Gilgeous-Alexander played at extreme efficiency no matter the shot difficulty.
He was 10-of-15 from the floor, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and 5-of-6 from the free throw line for 27 points. The only fault in his game? He took just one shot in the fourth quarter.
“I thought they were a little looser in the first half and he definitely took advantage of that,” Daigneault said. “He took advantage of their mistakes. I thought they tightened it up a little bit in the second half.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was complimentary of Gilgeous-Alexander after the game.
“He’s really grown in his short career, just seeing where he was as a rookie with the Clippers, to last year, to shouldering the big responsibility of being the No. 1 option,” Spoelstra said. “It’s pretty impressive.”
Diallo’s off night
Thunder guard Hamidou Diallo is having a breakout third season, averaging 12.5 points per game on 49% shooting, but he was held scoreless off the bench Monday night.
Diallo is attempting a career-high 9.7 shots per game, but he took just one shot in 20 minutes against the Heat.
“I noticed that in the box score, too,” said center Mike Muscala, who often plays in the second unit alongside Diallo.
“He’s such a physical force driving to the rim and cutting in there.”
Muscala mentioned that OKC’s transition opportunities, which Diallo thrives in, were limited in the second half because the Thunder was constantly taking the ball out of the basket. The Heat shot 54% in the second half and 47% from 3-point range.
Lu Dort did Lu Dort things against Butler.
The Heat’s star wing shot just 3-of-11 from the floor. He worked hard to score, with nine of his 15 points coming at the free throw line.
Duncan Robinson led the Heat with 22 points. He was 6-of-13 from behind the arc.
Kendrick Nunn had 20 points and Bam Adebayo had 19 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Adebayo was predictably tough to contain without Al Horford (rest) in the Thunder lineup.
Maledon’s slick passing
The window wasn’t cracked all that wide, but Maledon saw the opening.
The Thunder rookie threaded a pass over Butler’s outstretched leg and through Robinson to find Isaiah Roby, who was rolling to the rim.
It was one of three assists Maledon recorded in the first four minutes.
“Really mature player in that way,” Daigneault said of Maledon’s vision. “If you give him an advantage, he’s gonna make the right play nine out of 10 times. And he came in the door with that. That’s an instinct he’s developed over time.”
Maledon finished with eight points, five assists, five rebounds and two turnovers.
“He’s very composed for a rookie,” Muscala said. “Obviously his experience in Europe really shows. Very mature and very poised. His shooting has really surprised me, too. He’s a great shooter.”