OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)The same Thunder team that began the season losing close games on a regular basis now has figured out how to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and win.
Dennis Schroder scored 31 points, and Oklahoma City overcame a 24-point deficit and beat the Memphis Grizzlies 126-122 on Wednesday night.
Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander each scored 20 points and Chris Paul added 18 for the Thunder, who rallied from 26 points down to beat the Chicago Bulls on Monday.
According to the Thunder, Oklahoma City is the only NBA team in the past 20 years to overcome deficits of at least 24 points in consecutive games and win both. The Thunder will take the wins, but they’d prefer to avoid the extra drama.
”It feels good,” Schroder said. ”Two of them. You can’t rely on it. We’ve just got to come out better in the first quarter. But it was good. We can go home and enjoy the time but we’ve got to be better for 48 (minutes).”
Schroder scored 22 points in the second half.
”I think Dennis was – not to gas him up or nothing – but that was inspiring tonight,” Paul said. ”On a night where we sort of don’t have the energy, don’t have the mojo – just sitting over there watching how hard he was playing and the energy he was playing with, it forced everybody else to get on board.”
Brandon Clarke scored 27 points, Jonas Valanciunas scored 24 and Ja Morant added 22 for the Grizzlies.
”Tough one for us tonight,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. ”Obviously, great job building that big lead. Credit the Thunder. They played a heck of a second half. Their bench was phenomenal. Just a little short tonight.”
The Thunder got off to another shaky start on Wednesday. Memphis shot 54% in the first half and took a 68-59 lead at the break. Valanciunas and Morant each scored 13 points for the Grizzlies while Gallinari scored 11 points for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City did not score for three minutes to start the third quarter, and Memphis took an 80-59 lead. The Grizzlies’ largest lead was 89-65.
The Thunder surged at the end of the third quarter. Abdel Nader hit a 3-pointer with nine seconds left, then Schroder stole the inbound pass and Gilgeous-Alexander hit a 16-footer at the buzzer to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to 100-93.
”That was a momentum switch for sure,” Jenkins said.
Oklahoma City finally took the lead on a pull-up jumper by Schroder with just over eight minutes to play.
Paul’s short jumper gave the Thunder a 122-120 lead in the final minute. Memphis could have tied the game, but Morant and Clarke missed in close and Schroder made two free throws at the other end for Oklahoma City to push the Thunder lead to four.
After a dunk by Clarke, Schroder was fouled with 7.5 seconds to go, and he made both free throws to give the Thunder control for good.
Grizzlies: Were outscored 27-12 at the free-throw line. … Made just 2 of 10 3-pointers in the second half.
Thunder: Shot 55% in the first quarter, despite missing all five of their 3-point attempts. … Scored 28 points in the final 7:10 of the third quarter. … G Hamidou Diallo is still out with a hyperextended right elbow.
Paul brought in a tailor and paid for custom-made suits for the entire Thunder team. The players showed up to the arena Wednesday night dressed to impress. Even Steven Adams, known for showing up in sweats, got into the act.
Paul said Adams’ look was ”fresh” and might have had the best look. Adams corrected him and told him the proper word was ”dapper.” Rookie Darius Bazley said it was the first suit he’s ever had.
”The cool part about it is not even what it is, but the fact we did it together,” Paul said.
Schroder made 7 of 11 field goals and all eight of his free throws in the second half.
By many measures, Clarke had the best offensive game of his career. He had career highs in field goals made (13) and attempted (19) and had seven offensive rebounds.
The Grizzlies visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
The Thunder host the Phoenix Suns on Friday.
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