Player grades: Free throw, fast break disparity cause Thunder to lose to Grizzlies, 121-110

Friday’s game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies was billed as a superstar heavyweight matchup between Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Ja Morant — two of the best young guards in the league.

Instead, both turned in mundane performances as Gilgeous-Alexander scored a season-low in points and Morant exited the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

The Non-Morant Grizzlies stepped up big time in this game and helped lead them to their 10th win of the season. Starters Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds and John Konchar scored 19 points. Off the bench, Santi Aldama scored 15 points and Tyus Jones scored 13 points.

In the end, the Grizzlies defeated the Thunder, 121-110.

The Thunder were able to keep it within reach the entire game but was not able to make a serious run at taking the lead. The Grizzlies were able to answer back any potential Thunder run and put out the fire.

The difference in this game? The charity stripe.

The Thunder shot 9-of-11 (81.8 percent) while the Grizzlies shot 29-of-40 (72.5 percent) from the free-throw line. A 29-attempt difference and a 20-point difference in an 11-point loss.

The Thunder committed 28 fouls to the Grizzlies’ 13 fouls.

Allowing 30 fast-break points certainly didn’t help either — especially when the Thunder only scored six of their own.

Outside of those two areas, the Thunder were able to keep up with the Grizzlies for the rest of the offensive categories, but a free-throw and fast-break disparity that large requires almost a perfect performance in other areas of the game and the Thunder simply did not do that.

Let’s take a look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: C-

(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

As mentioned earlier, this was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s lowest-scoring game of the season. Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 15 points on 6-of-18 shooting, six assists and six rebounds.

It did not feel like Gilgeous-Alexander really made an impact in this game and the Grizzlies did a great job at making him inconsequential. The quiet performance could also be a result of Gilgeous-Alexander running out of juice at the end of this four-game road trip.

Traveling that many miles on top of being the top option on a team probably equate to laying the occasional egg.

Overall, it’s nothing to be too concerned about for now and this performance could just be chalked up as a bad game.

Josh Giddey: C

Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t let the box score stats fool you.

While Josh Giddey did finish with 20 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, eight of those points came in the fourth quarter — and to decipher even further, four of those points came in the final minute when the game was essentially decided.

Giddey also missed a pair of three-pointers late in the game that could’ve swung the game to the Thunder’s favor. The more critical of the miss came in an extended five-against-four situation after Morant hurt his ankle and the advantage resulted in a missed Giddey three.

Overall, Giddey shot 10-of-20 from the field and went 10-of-16 inside the paint, which is not an efficient way to shoot inside there.

While the playmaking from Giddey is awesome, it’s hard not to bump down his grade to average due to his shooting troubles.

Jalen Williams: A

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In a forgettable game, Jalen Williams was one of the few bright spots for the Thunder.

In his fourth start of the season, Williams finished with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, seven assists and six rebounds.

Williams was able to score on both self-created shots and off of assists from his teammates, A healthy scoring mix for a rookie wing.

Aleksej Pokusevski: A

(Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

It looked like it was going to be an Aleksej Pokusevski game.

After 14 minutes, Pokusevski scored 10 points on perfect 4-of-4 shooting and three blocks. This included going 2-of-2 from three.

Sharing the court with Gilgeous-Alexander, Morant and Jackson Jr., one could argue that Pokusevski was the best player on the floor when he was on it tonight.

Alas, a left ankle sprain he suffered after Jackson Jr. bumped into him on an inbound play cut his night short. Pokusevski was in clear pain, clutching his left ankle and hobbled his way into the locker room.

Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault confirmed after the game it was the same ankle he hurt against the Boston Celtics this past Monday.

Hopefully it’s nothing serious as Pokusevski is starting to find his groove as an NBA player. The last thing the 20-year-old needs is an extended absence that would ruin the momentum he’s gathered over the last few weeks.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl: A

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To wrap up player grades, let’s talk about the Thunder plus-minus leader tonight.

In 28 minutes, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, seven rebounds and three blocks. The Thunder outscored the Grizzlies by 13 points when he was on the floor.

Robinson-Earl was given the starting nod in the second half as he and Mike Muscala replaced Pokusevski and Williams.

This has been a common unique coaching strategy by Daigneault that clearly worked with Robinson-Earl as he scored 12 of his 14 points in the latter two quarters.


Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire