OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The Oklahoma City Blue (1-0) used a strong second half performance to erase a 23-point deficit and defeat the Salt Lake City Stars (0-1), 118-113, marking the largest playoff comeback victory in franchise history.
Teams exchanged baskets for the first few minutes before the Warriors went on a 14-2 run to earn a double-digit advantage that the visitors would hold for the remainder of the first half, widening the gap to as many as 23 points in the second frame.
Midway through the third, the Blue produced a run of 10 unanswered points punctuated by back-to-back layups from Dez Wells to trim the deficit to three at 82-79. The Stars pushed the gap back to 10 points early in the fourth quarter, but Thunder assignment player Deonte Burton led an 11-0 run to put the Blue back on top 93-92. Oklahoma City was able to stay ahead of Salt Lake City for the final four minutes of the game, outscoring them 37-24 in the final frame to advance to the conference semifinals.
“We have a highly competitive team that really wants to win, they really want to play for each other,” Head Coach Mark Daigneault said. “It’s the most well-intentioned, competitive team you can imagine, and I thought that our ambition to win the game kind of distracted us from the job in the first half. We were giving effort, but it wasn’t execution the way it needs to be. You need the effort and you need the execution, so the adjustment was really just us refocusing. In the second half, we did a good job of that.”
Burton finished with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and one block. Scotty Hopson led the way for the home team, tallying 26 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter, four rebounds, five assists and three steals. Wells led all reserves with a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds.
Kevin Hervey went 8-of-12 from the floor and 3-of-3 from three-point range to register 22 points and six rebounds while Abdul Gaddy recorded 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, three rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Grayson Allen led Salt Lake City with 37 points, six rebounds and five assists.
The Blue is slated to travel to Santa Cruz, Calif. to take on the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals on Friday, March 29 at 10 p.m. CT inside Kaiser Permanente Arena.