Player grades: SGA's 42 points leads Thunder to impressive 153-121 win over Rockets
By Clemente Almanza,
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder exorcised their demons in a 153-121 blowout win against the Houston Rockets.
In Wednesday’s meeting between the two teams, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault made it a point of emphasis to talk about how the Rockets were ready from the jump and that led to their upset win.
That wasn’t the case Saturday.
The Thunder opened with an 8-2 a little over 90 seconds into the game. Following that quick burst, the Thunder coasted the rest of the way to their most dominating win of the season with a lead as large as 45 points — the largest of the season.
The Thunder had one of their best offensive nights in franchise history as they scored a franchise-record 153 points in regulation. The Thunder scored 123 points in just three quarters.
This is the second time this season that the Thunder passed the 150-point threshold, the first time being against the Boston Celtics last month. On Saturday, the Thunder enjoyed back-to-back 40-plus point quarters in the second and third quarters to help them achieve this mark.
“Credit to our players. We knew the type of mentality that we wanted to bring to the game. I thought we really imposed ourselves onto the game early,” Daigneault said. “…We built (our lead) with a pretty bloodthirsty mentality tonight.”
In his first game since being named an All-Star, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played like an All-NBA candidate with 20 first-quarter points and 28 first-half points. By the end of the third quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander flirted with a 50-piece with 42 points.
Due to a 42-point lead entering the fourth quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander enjoyed the final 12 minutes of the game resting on the bench.
The Thunder shot 56-of-97 (57.7%) from the field and went 21-of-46 (45.7%) from 3. The Thunder dished out 39 team assists. All 11 players for the Thunder scored.
Meanwhile, the Rockets struggled from outside, going just 10-of-30 (33.3%) from 3. Overall, they shot 45-of-89 (50.6%) from the field.
In terms of individual performances for the Rockets, there’s not much to write home about.
Jalen Green made his return after a three-game absence and finished with 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Jabari Smith Jr. finished with 11 points. Alperen Sengun finished with 10 points and four rebounds and was in constant foul trouble with four first-half fouls.
The leading scorers for the Rockets came off the bench as TyTy Washington Jr. and Josh Christopher each had 20 points.
“It’s important to have a game like this whenever you can,” Daigneault said. “When you answer the ball, respond to the challenges of competition. I thought we kind of declared ourselves to ourselves tonight.”
Let’s take a look at Thunder player grades as they pick up their first win against the Rockets this season and just their second in the last seven tries.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A+
If it was possible to give a grader higher than A+, I’d give it to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Maybe A+++. Or extra credit.
In his first game since being named an All-Star reserve, Gilgeous-Alexander played like an All-Star starter.
Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 42 points on 14-of-23 shooting and went 14-of-15 from the free-throw line.
The most impressive thing about Gilgeous-Alexander’s scoring outburst is the fact that he didn’t need a three-pointer to reach the mark, going just 0-of-2 from 3.
Gilgeous-Alexander also had six assists, four rebounds and three steals.
By the end of the first quarter, it looked like we were going to get an SGA masterclass as he scored 20 points — which is a career high for points in the first quarter.
By the end of the third quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander had 42 points in 30 minutes.
That was all for Gilgeous-Alexander wrote as he sat the entirety of the fourth quarter and finished with 30 minutes.
“That’s an All-Star starter right there,” Jalen Williams said as he playfully interrupted Gilgeous-Alexander’s post-game presser. “Just so y’all know.”
Josh Giddey: A
With Gilgeous-Alexander putting on a show, backcourt partner Josh Giddey was more than happy to play in the background and collect easy dimes.
Giddey finished with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Giddey did most of his scoring inside, as he went 7-of-9 in the paint.
A pretty easygoing performance for Giddey as the rest of his teammates feasted on the Rockets defense.
Mike Muscala: A
The Thunder decided to go experience with their starting lineup as Mike Muscala started at center.
It paid off as Muscala tied his season-high in scoring with 19 points in 18 minutes. Muscala shot 7-of-10 from the field and 5-of-8 from 3 to reach that mark.
Muscala also grabbed six rebounds and was a plus-19 in his playing time.
On the other end, Muscala did a fine job at not allowing Alperen Sengun to dissect the Thunder offense and baited him into getting into foul trouble and turn into a non-factor in this win — the complete opposite of what he did on Wednesday.
After the game, Muscala revealed Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault decided not to show them any clips prior to Saturday’s game, stating he’ll see how the team responds after Wednesday’s loss.
Looks like they responded well.
Isaiah Joe: B+
Isaiah Joe added to the hot outside shooting night the Thunder enjoyed.
Joe finished with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting and went 5-of-8 from 3.
Muscala and Joe were responsible for most of the Thunder’s outside points as they combined for 10 of the 21 made three-pointers.
For comparison, the Rockets made a total of 10 three-pointers as a team this game.
Joe played a vital role in the Thunder making franchise history with 153 points scored as he played nine fourth-quarter minutes and scored nine points.
“We owed them one. Especially after they beat us at their place,” Joe said.”…We came into this game with a different mentality.”
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