Shutting down the Atlanta Hawks is made easier when Oklahoma native Trae Young is rendered ineffective. Luguentz Dort, who is arguably the best defender for the OKC Thunder, took that task and ran with it, limiting Young through the first two-and-a-half quarters to just nine points.
Young broke double digits midway through the third quarter when he drained a wide-open 3-pointer, but with every shot the Hawks made, the Thunder responded with one of their own.
Dort putting the clamps on Young forced the Hawks to look elsewhere for their scoring. The Hawks got that from John Collins, who put up 25 points.
Ultimately, OKC couldn’t be stopped, running away with a 118-109 win over the Hawks.
If the first quarter proved anything, it was that the Thunder would have a tough time shutting down Clint Capella on the offensive and defensive glass.
Capella was dominant on the boards, picking the ball out of the air at will over various Thunder players. In the first quarter alone, Capella picked up three offensive rebounds and four defensive rebounds. He would finish with 21, nine of which came on the offensive side of the court for the Hawks.
It was the story of the first quarter and led to a small run that allowed the Hawks to surge ahead by nine points midway through the first quarter. The Thunder somehow managed to pull within two points, 33-31, on a last-second shot from Kenrich Williams.
From that point forward, it was Oklahoma City’s game to lose.
The Thunder outscored the Hawks by 10 in the second quarter and eight in the third to take a commanding lead into the fourth. Although the Hawks were able to pour in 29 fourth-quarter points, it was still well shy of the amount needed to take them down.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s 24 points on 56.3 percent shooting led the way for his team. Dort scored 19 on 42.9 percent shooting, Darius Bazley pulled out of his recent slump to erupt for 18 points on 66.7 percent shooting and 12 rebounds and Williams added 15 points on 77.8 percent shooting.
Theo Maledon scored 13 points on 36.4 percent shooting, but what was most impressive about his game on Friday was where he landed in the assist column, and that’s why Maledon leads TI’s 3 takeaways.
OKC Thunder takeaway No. 1) Maledon has career night in Thunder win
It’s hard to believe that OKC Thunder guard Maledon is a rookie… and a second-round pick at that.
Maledon plays like a seasoned vet, which can be attributed to his time playing in France’s professional circuit. Despite his experience, a basketball player’s successful professional career overseas does not guarantee success in the NBA.
Maledon is one of the exceptions.
At 19, he is one of the youngest players on the OKC Thunder roster. But while players like Aleksej Pokusevski and Moses Brown were sent to the OKC Blue in the NBA G League for development, Maledon has been a constant on the Thunder roster.
In Friday’s win over the Hawks, Maledon showed why.
The young guard started at the two for the Thunder and logged 34:25 of on-court time. His time was second only to Gilgeous-Alexander, and even then by just a little over a minute.
He wasn’t super accurate, finishing 4-of-11 from the field for 13 points, but he excelled elsewhere, handing out assist after assist to finish with 12, which tied a little bit of Thunder history.
The rookie came to PLAY tonight ????#Thunder guard Théo Maledon speaks with @nickgallo22 on the big win against Atlanta, where he tied Russell Westbrook for the most assists (12) in a single game by a rookie in Thunder history!@okcthunder | #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/8L0ciZGuai
— FOX Sports Oklahoma (@FOXSportsOK) February 27, 2021
Maledon is smooth, calm, and confident.
His NBA career is just beginning, but it won’t be long before he blossoms into a star.