“I’m always rooting for Breakfast Club,” said Roby, a card-carrying member of that club who made his sixth-straight start tonight but is intermittently a part of the bench unit. “It was great to see them go out there, hold the lead and extend the lead for us.”
“It was really good basketball overall by them,” Roby continued. “They were driving, kicking, drawing guys and finding the open shooter. Coach can’t be anything but happy with the shots that they were getting.”
After a deflection and strong rebound by Pokuševski on back-to-back defensive possessions came a pair of hard-charging drives by the ferocious Diallo, who can “smell the rim” according to Daigneault. Diallo has been the Thunder’s bench spark plug consistently all year, ranking 13th in the league in total points off the bench, averaging a career-best 11.2 points per game on 52.8 percent shooting thanks to his physical, attacking style.
“You try to put as much pressure on the defense so they’re not relaxing and they don’t know what we’re doing,” Diallo said. “It’s just something that I bring to the game and something we have to keep doing to make the offense flow a little smoother for us.”
That spurt broke the game open and helped cement the Thunder bench’s command in the game, as it outscored Portland’s 53-34 while shooting 20-for-36 (55.6 percent) from the floor including 8-of-19 (42.1 percent) from 3 with nine assists to just one turnover.
As the Thunder moves forward along its pathway of establishing a sustainable style of play that can be relied upon as players mature and grow, being a team that has a personality of attacking and sharing the ball from all five positions is a crucial goal. A team that is unpredictable and can flow randomly into offense from any spot is the most difficult to scheme against.
“Those guys are skilled players. The traditional positions don’t really apply to a lot of the players on our team,” said Daigneault. “Those guys are basketball players. We were more concerned with our pace tonight and getting off early and playing through advantages.”
In a couple nights against Phoenix or sometime down the line, the Thunder’s second unit might not be as sharp as it was tonight. Shots might not fall, which may shine a light on some areas for improvement. But just as the Thunder knows that growth isn’t linear, it celebrates the ticks forward – those victories inside the game, regardless of whether it was actually a victory or a defeat. Tonight, it got both types of wins.