OKC Thunder player grades: Thunder blow 18-point lead, SGA & Bazley combine for 57 points in 134-116 loss to Hornets

The Oklahoma City Thunder will continue to search for its first win in nearly two weeks as the team falls to the Charlotte Hornets, 134-116.

After a hot start in the first quarter where the team scored 41 points and led by as much as 18 points, the Hornets were able to take control for the rest of the game and outscore the Thunder 105-75 in the remaining three quarters. This game continues the trend of the Thunder’s once top defense regressing to one of the worst in the league due to injuries.

Entering this game, since the All-Star break, the Thunder have the 29th ranked defensive rating at 121.3. Just for comparison reasons, the Thunder had the eighth-best defensive rating at 108.6 before the All-Star break.

The Hornets were able to swing this game their way with its outside shooting, as they shot 20-of-35 (57.1 percent) from beyond the arc. The Hornets entered the game as a top-five team in the league in terms of three-pointers made per game.

For the Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to play like one of the best players in the league recently as he collected his eighth game of at least 30 points in his last 10 contests. Darius Bazley also followed up a career night with another 20-point performance.

For the Hornets, Terry Rozier led the team in scoring with 30 points. Miles Bridges also finished with 27 points and LaMelo Ball had an 21 point and seven assists performance.

Overall, the defensive slippage in recent weeks was not more evident than it was in this game as the Hornets were able to score 102 points in three quarters with ease. The Thunder simply do not have the offensive firepower to keep up with that type of scoring currently — even with Gilgeous-Alexander being a nuclear scorer in recent weeks. Let’ take a look at player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A+

Gilgeous-Alexander continues to play like an elite player for the Thunder as he finished with another 30-point performance, his eighth in his last 10 games. Since the All-Star break, Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 30.2 points on 52.2 percent shooting.

In this game, Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 32 points on an efficient 12-of-20 shooting along with five assists and eight rebounds. As per usual, Gilgeous-Alexander was able to do most of his damage from inside the paint. Although he did shoot a respectable 3-of-7 from deep this game. Gilgeous-Alexander continues to play like one of the best players in the league since the All-Star break despite having serious NBA talent around him.

Darius Bazley: A+

Less than 24 hours after scoring a career-high 29 points, Darius Bazley followed up the performance with another stellar game as he finished with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting that included going 4-of-9 from three. Much like last game, Bazley was able to do all of his damage either inside the paint or from beyond the arc.

This was probably Bazley’s best two-game stretch in his career so far. Expecting him to continue to carry this over for the rest of the season is unrealistic, but the shot selection is definitely replicable.

Aleksej Pokusevski: A+

Aleksej Pokusevski continues to impress since the month of February as he finished this game with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. This is his sixth consecutive game scoring at least 10 points. Pokusevski has averaged 11.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists since the beginning of February.

It appears we have entered the territory of Pokusevski saving his season with a great second-half performance after a poor first-half performance once again. Nonetheless, Pokusevski continues to look good and the idea of him becoming an NBA player looks more realistic by the game.

Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said he is impressed with Pokusevski’s ability to get lost in the competition and said that playing him at center is something the team will look into.

“If he continues to lean into the competition, there’s a lot to explore about him,” said Daigneault after the game.

Tre Mann: C+

While this was not Tre Mann’s best shooting night as he scored 13 points on 12 shots, he did shoot a decent percentage from three as he went 3-of-6 and also contributed in other areas of the game with six assists and five rebounds.

Mann has struggled with his shot recently as he has averaged 12 points on 32.3 percent shooting from the field, but with the Thunder down so many players, the rookie will likely continue to get force fed starts with no other alternatives the team can go to. Mann will have plenty of room for error in this last month of the season to figure things out.

Vit Krejci: B

Vit Krejci shot the ball well from outside as he went 4-of-6 from three and scored a career-high 12 points in just 15 minutes. Krejci continues to get opportunities to play with the amount of injuries the team is dealing with and it looks like that will continue to be the case for a minute.