Royal Ivey had the best, worst stat line imaginable.
Zero points. Zero assists. Zero rebounds. Zero steals.
He missed all four of his shots and had three fouls in 17 minutes.
And he was the player of the game.
Ivey, the Thunder's fourth-string point guard on opening night, led Oklahoma City to a 115-104 comeback victory over Phoenix inside Chesapeake Energy Arena in a game that was headed the wrong way fast on Wednesday night.
The Thunder trailed by as many as 16 points but, led by Ivey's defensive intensity, battled back from a near blowout and bumped its league-best home record to 17-1 after notching its 14th straight home win.
“Everything changed when Royal got into the game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Brooks made the move with 5:03 remaining in the third quarter. The Thunder was down 80-68 and hadn't shown a pulse for the game's first 30 minutes. The deficit grew to 16 just 50 seconds later after back-to-back Suns baskets.
That's when Ivey sparked the Thunder's largest come-from-behind win in two seasons.
Ivey began playing body-to-body defense against Suns guards Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown. That duo had combined for 17 points on a series of jumpers, fast-break dunks and short floaters that helped Phoenix mount its 16-point advantage. Ivey also helped contain forward Grant Hill, limiting all three by chasing them off screens and refusing to getting taken out of plays on picks.
“When you see a guy like that working, you have no choice but to do the same,” said Russell Westbrook. “If you're not, then everybody's looking at you like you're crazy.”
Ivey's energy became contagious.
The Thunder closed the third quarter on an 18-4 run to pull within 88-84 going into the final period. Oklahoma City held Phoenix to 1-of-4 shooting and forced the Suns into three turnovers over that game-changing spurt.
“Everybody got locked in, and we got some stops,” Ivey said. “We were getting to loose balls and got a couple of steals and deflections and we started running.”
With the small ball lineup working, Ivey played the entire fourth quarter. He missed three shots, all 3-pointers, but didn't really care. The Thunder was chipping away and assembling yet another dominant defensive effort in the fourth quarter. This time, OKC held its opponent to 16 points on 3-for-17 shooting.