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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scores 35 points, rallies OKC Thunder past Brooklyn Nets

The Thunder is building for the future, but games like the one Tuesday night in Oklahoma City make you realize that the Thunder’s promising young core is playing some pretty good basketball in the present.

The Thunder beat the Nets 121-107 in a game where the following happened:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 35 points, despite a slow start and a sore side.

Lu Dort drained a season-high six 3-pointers to snap out of his slump.

Santa Clara Williams played like a running back sniffing the end zone and Arkansas Williams continued his charge-taking exhibition.

Oh, and Josh Giddey had a triple-double, tying the likes of John Wall, Lonzo Ball and Mookie Blaylock for 72nd on the all-time triple-doubles list with eight.

“Everybody that touched the floor tonight really helped us in different parts of the game,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.

The Thunder (34-35), at least for a night, is eighth in the West and just two games out of fifth place. It’s also 2.5 games out of 13th.

More:How did Shai Gilgeous-Alexander grow into an OKC Thunder superstar? Look to July 11, 2019

Mar 14, 2023; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) stretches after a play against the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2023; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) stretches after a play against the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter at Paycom Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Lu Dort’s 3-point shooting

Lu Dort smiled, and said what everyone else had seen.

“I had it going.”

Indeed Dort did.

Dort had been mired in a slump, going 5-of-26 from 3-point range in his last five games, before making five 3-pointers in the third quarter alone against the Nets.

Dort finished 6-of-11 from deep, but his third-quarter onslaught is what turned the game.

The Thunder outscored the Nets 38-20 in the third quarter, led by Dort, who scored 15 points in 10 minutes.

“I was happy for Lu,” Daigneault said. “He hasn’t shot the ball well, he didn’t get off to a great start shooting it, and that flurry in the third was huge.”

Dort’s 24 points tied his season high. It was his fourth 24-point game of the season.

More:Ousmane Dieng scores career-high 17 points to lead Thunder past Spurs

Josh Giddey’s triple-double

Thunder fans have become triple-double numb after Russell Westbrook’s mind-bending run, but Giddey, at the ripe age of 20, is 20th among active players for most triple-doubles.

The 6-foot-8 Aussie guard had 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He didn’t shoot the ball well (7-of-19), but he iced the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc that sent Paycom Center into a frenzy.

Giddey flashed three fingers before flexing his muscles and celebrating with Jaylin Williams.

“There’s gonna be nights when the ball just doesn’t go in for you, and that was the case for me early on,” Giddey said. “I couldn’t buy one. But as you play more games and mature, you understand that you’ve gotta find more ways to impact the game.”

Giddey was the Thunder’s leading rebounder and assist man Tuesday night, as he’s been all season in those categories.

More:Three years after March 11 NBA shutdown in OKC, where are key Thunder-Jazz figures now?

Oklahoma City's Jalen Williams (8) celebrates after a basket during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Brooklyn Nets at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 14, 2023.
Oklahoma City's Jalen Williams (8) celebrates after a basket during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Brooklyn Nets at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 14, 2023.

Jalen Williams attacks

As Mark Daigneault likes to say, Jalen Williams was “on the gas” Tuesday night against the Nets.

The rookie guard out of Santa Clara is playing like a shark who smells blood on the rim.

“He gets energized by competition,” Daigneault said. “He brings the juice every night.”

J-Dub needed just 10 shots (eight makes) to score 23 points. He chipped in 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Williams grabbed an offensive rebound and made a tough finish to give the Thunder an 88-80 lead in the third quarter. Moments later, he found Ousmane Dieng with a sweet pass leading to a Dieng slam.

You can already mark him down for first team All-Rookie.

More:'We laid a foundation': Members of 2008-09 OKC team reunite at Thunder Legacy Weekend

Thunder tip-ins

● Mark Daigneault on the Nets: “They’re playing with a confidence and a looseness on offense, in a good way, that is pretty potent. You can feel it.”

● Nets coach Jacque Vaughn on the Thunder: “Lot of problems they present. I think it starts with SGA and his ability to get buckets, make shots. To have a guy score 30 and not make a three is pretty impressive …”

● Thunder sophomores Tre Mann and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl both received DNPs (coach’s decision). Mann and Robinson-Earl have been out of the rotation for the last two weeks or so.

● Daigneault on Robinson-Earl and Mann: “We have a high belief in them, but right now it’s a good test of their mettle. I personally think you come out of these (situations) stronger if you hang in there … Some of the tougher guys on our team, the guys that you respect for their toughness, if you trace the footsteps back in their career, they’ve had to endure, and enduring is not a bad thing all the time … It’s gonna come back around to them at some point, and when it does they have to be ready to go.”

● The Thunder employed a Hack-a-Claxton strategy. Nic Claxton, an excellent defensive center, is a 53% free throw shooter. He went 4-of-9 from the line Tuesday.

● Thunder guard Lindy Waters III started the second half in place of center Jaylin Williams. That gave the Thunder an opening third-quarter lineup of five guards: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams and Waters.

● The Thunder went back to Arkansas Williams to close the game.

● OKC won despite making fewer 3-pointers (12 to 11) and fewer free throws (25 to 20).

● Brooklyn led by as many as 16 points.

● OKC swept the season series 2-0.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder beat Nets; OKC rises in NBA standings