The Thunder and Pelicans entered tonight’s matchup with a combined record of 16-39. Despite this, the two teams played a highly entertaining game that featured one of the most exciting finishes we will ever see.
For those who somehow haven’t seen the clip already, Devonte’ Graham drained a 61-foot heave at the buzzer to beat OKC. This was right off the heels of an incredible three made by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to tie it with 1.4 seconds to go. It was an amazing sequence that all non-Thunder fans are watching and rewatching with awe, but I can safely assume that every Thunder fan immediately thought of Damian Lillard’s 37-foot “bad shot” (the Paul George slander will never stop). It was a disappointing way to lose, but it is a great sign that this young team has continued to find ways to keep their games competitive.
Star of the Game
It was a great night for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Canadian continued his hot streak with a 33 point performance. It is clear at this point that he is being completely held back by his teammates. Luguentz Dort is the only player on this team who truly complements Shai. Tonight we saw some awkward moments between Shai and Josh Giddey. These two are a very intriguing combo. But, it will take a while for them to build chemistry and learn how to play together. For now we can expect to see some more Herculean efforts from SGA.
While most of the roster is taking huge steps forward, the young big man duo of Darius Bazley and Aleksej Pokusevski have almost completely disappeared from the team’s offensive gameplan. Bazley averaged 14 and 7 last year at the age of 20 and the expectation this year was that he would develop into a legitimate NBA starter. He has done the opposite. Bazley is averaging 8.5 and 6 this year. He is a complete defensive liability, and at times looks completely lost out there on the court.
Meanwhile Poku has been reduced to a benchwarmer, and today he didn’t even see any action. He is one of the league’s most inefficient players and coach Mark Daigneault has reached the point where he can’t justify giving him serious minutes. The fact of the matter is that these guys are extremely young. Bazley is 21 and Pokusevski is still just 19 years old. They have plenty of time to grow. But if they don’t improve their play soon, Presti will be forced to look into drafting their replacements this offseason.
Kenrich Williams has an interesting role on this team. He is 27 years old, has done almost nothing in his NBA career, and plays small forward, a position that the Thunder have plenty of depth at. He is regarded as a hard worker and a valuable veteran presence (he is currently the 3rd oldest player on the roster) on this very young team. With Poku’s struggles and Dort’s injury he saw his minutes increased and stepped up in a big way. He poured in a season-high 17 points and OKC had a point differential of +20 while he was on the court. It is great to see him get rewarded for his work, even if all this does is increase the likelihood that he is traded at the deadline.
Vs Los Angeles Clippers on December 18th at 5PM Pacific
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