The Oklahoma City Thunder were riding a two-game skid (tied for the season high losing streak) entering Thursday night's tilt with the Utha Jazz, who were among one of the hottest teams in basketball.
The Jazz already have 15 wins at home, and despite their sluggish start to the season have scrapped their way up the Western Conference Standings and into the postseason picture. In their last ten games, Utah is now 8-2 in their last ten games, in part due to Rookie Cason Wallace's dagger triple.
Rookie Cason Wallace has a career night in win over Utah, shows OKC Thunder high ceiling.
It was all Oklahoma City early in this contest, with the Thunder getting up 19 to set the tone. The Thunder were attacking downhill early, and enjoying open looks off the defenses collapsing commitment.
However, no lead in the Modern NBA is safe, basketball as they say is a game of runs, and the Jazz made there's tying the ball game twice including in the third.
Utah kept punching all night, landing multiple haymakers to keep this within striking distance late, even getting it down to a one-point Thunder advantage.
Cason Wallace was thrusted into the starting lineup after Lu Dort popped up on the injury report late with an illness. The Rookie has been tasked with being the swing starter for OKC throughout this season, now with seven starts under his belt.
The Kentucky guard set a career-high in points with 16, shooting 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hauling in four rebounds, dishing out an assist, swiping a steal, and swatting a shot all in 32 minutes of action.
When the OKC Thunder used the tenth overall pick in the NBA Draft on Wallace, it was melt with a collective "Another Guard?" groan from the fanbase. Since that day, the 20 year old has shown exactly why he was the right choice for OKC.
On Short notice, it come in and dominate this game, including nailing a dagger triple, that is something most rookies cannot do.
Throughout the season, Cason Wallace has shot the ball incredibly well, nailing trey balls at a 41 percent clip. However, that includes a December Dip where the rookie shot just 30 percent from distance.
Still in that time, as the shots were not falling and frustration mounted, Wallace remained locked in on the defensive end making a winning impact in OKC's hottest stretch of the season despite his lowest shooting dip.
Wallace's mindset, the confidence to step up, and the impact he can make on both ends of the floor help elevate this young Thunder team's ceiling. This week along Wallace has been tasked with defending 1-5, which includes swatting LeBron James and James Harden on both to back nights.
It is clear the Kentucky product will be a high-level NBA player for a long time, and with the Thunder's defensive development ability, it seems like a lock that Wallace will become an elite level defender.