Oklahoma City suffered their worst lost in team history on Saturday night against Indiana by 57 points. However, on Sunday, they turned things around and nearly took down the NBA's top team in the Phoenix Suns. Although they lost by a final score of 123-120, there were drastic improvements across the board from the Thunder in comparison to the night before.
OKC's Ty Jerome had a chance to play against his former team on Sunday night. After being acquired by the Thunder in the Chris Paul trade, former Phoenix Sun Jerome would look past his early-career injury issues and try make an impact on a rebuilding Oklahoma City team. After missing the first part of the season due to an ankle injury and spending time in the G League bubble, he's been perhaps the Thunder's best bench player.
On Sunday night, he scored 15 points on 3-for-4 from beyond the arc to go with five assists, two rebounds, one block and one steal. This notched his 18th game of the season scoring in double figures through just 31 games. On a night in which the bench scored 65 points (second-most in Thunder history), Jerome led the way as he typically does within that unit.
"We try to do that every game. This is the first time nearly everyone has been healthy," said Jerome. "We finally had a solid offensive game."
Outside of Jerome, Darius Bazley also had a solid night with 19 points and nine rebounds. Theo Maledon scored 18 points, including three from deep that put him ahead of Alex Abrines for the most 3-pointers made by a Thunder rookie in history with 96. While this was a great accomplishment, Maledon cares more about winning games.
“It’s definitely humbling," said Maledon when asked about his new record. "Really blessed to be able to achieve that. What matters most to me is winning and that’s not something we did tonight.”
To help Jerome off the bench, Kenrich Williams had 15 points alongside Isaiah Roby and Gabriel Deck who scored 11 each.
The story of the night was still OKC's turnaround and the level of competitiveness they came out with in comparison to Saturday night's performance. After losing by 57 points to a team below .500, the Thunder flipped a switch and took the team with the best record in the league down to the wire in a game that was decided on a questionable call by the officiating crew.
This performance made Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault extremely proud. After the game, he raved about his team against the Suns and how much they learned and progressed. “These guys were awesome tonight on many levels," said Daigneault. "They learned a lesson, then moved on. I really like this team. There was a lot of growth and progress tonight. We’re really happy.”
Williams, who had a solid night, talked about having a clean slate coming into every game and attacking tonight's contest without thinking about the game before. That is what he attributed this close game to. "Just having a 0-0 mentality, coming into every game with our heads up," said Williams. "I'm proud of the way we fought tonight."
Jerome echoed his thoughts, having a similar mindset that Daigneault has instilled into this young team. "That's been coaches message all season," said Jerome. "No matter what happens the game before, the next day you wake up and it's 0-0."
Oklahoma City will play the Kings and Warriors twice a piece over the next seven days. With just seven games remaining this season for the Thunder, every one could have a major swing on their draft lottery odds.