The OKC Thunder is one of the youngest teams in the league, and a couple of rookies provided a spark on Monday.
The OKC Thunder beat the Atlanta Hawks 126-117 to end a two-game losing skid. While others helped lead the way, the Thunder would only have won with the contributions of Chet Holmgren and Cason Wallace.
OKC Thunder rookies spark the team in a win against the Hawks
Holmgren’s early Rookie of the Year campaign continued against Atlanta. While it was another impressive individual outing for him, he helped seal the win for Oklahoma City late.
After Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who put up 30 points after his one-game absence, put up a desperation shot with the shot clock running down, Holmgren finished the play. With less than a minute left, Holmgren secured the offensive rebound before returning to complete an and-one.
That extended the Thunder’s lead to nine and virtually secured the win. Holmgren’s big play late helped him finish with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Despite Holmgren’s effort as the game’s leading rebounder, Oklahoma City struggled on the glass. Atlanta won the rebounding battle 59-49, including 25 offensive rebounds.
Holmgren also displayed his rim protection with three blocks. But Holmgren may not have been Oklahoma City’s best rookie defender.
Wallace’s reputation as a defensive menace held true against Trae Young and the Hawks’ backcourt. While it was not all Wallace, he helped the Thunder hold Young to 5-of-18 shooting and seven turnovers.
Wallace finished with four steals and completed one of those with a breakaway dunk in the second quarter. But it was the third quarter when Wallace made his most significant impact.
Wallace had three steals in the third and threw down another fastbreak dunk. In that quarter, the Thunder began to pull away and took a 19-point lead into the fourth.
While the OKC Thunder will not be able to expect those defensive performances every game, it may be a glimpse of what will come from those two. They will also face tougher matchups on Wednesday as the Thunder finish their homestand against the Cleveland Cavaliers.