Player grades: SGA’s 34 points and game-winner leads Thunder to 101-99 win over Nuggets

The backcourt duo of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey have headlined this recent run of success for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

So it was only appropriate that they were the only ones to touch the ball on the game-winning basket for the Thunder in their 101-99 win over the Denver Nuggets.

With 11.2 seconds left in a tied game, Gilgeous-Alexander was able to leverage his way into an open lane and cut to the basket. Giddey, the best inbound passer on the team, recognized this and bounced the ball to an open Gilgeous-Alexander for an eight-foot bank shot.

The Thunder were able to hold the Nuggets scoreless on the other end and handed the Nuggets just their fourth home loss of the season.

The caveat of the Nuggets missing Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. should not rain on OKC’s parade. The Thunder won a close, hard-fought win against a first-place Nuggets who entered on a nine-game winning streak.

With only three Thunder players reaching 10 points, Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey led the way.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 34 points on an efficient 21 shots. Giddey added 18 points and nine rebounds.

Neither team shot the ball well and both were pretty even in terms of shot volume and efficiency.

The Thunder went 40-of-89 (44.9%) from the field and an ugly 7-of-26 (26.9%) from 3. The Nuggets went 36-of-82 (43.9%) from the field and 10-of-28 (35.7%) from 3.

The difference in the game for the Thunder were inside the paint and from the free-throw line.

The Thunder outscored the Nuggets inside the paint, 58-44. Meanwhile, the Nuggets didn’t cash in on their trips to the charity stripe, going a hideous 17-of-33 (51.5%) from the free-throw line.

Without Jokic, it was an ugly, grind-it-out type of game for both teams that saw the Thunder hit timely shots when needed.

For the Nuggets, Jamal Murray led the way with Jokic’s absence. Murray finished with 26 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Aaron Gordon and Zeke Nnaji both collected double-double’s too. Gordon finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds; Nnaji finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Seven of the nine Nuggets players who played scored at least 10 points.

The Thunder will now enjoy two days off before starting a three-game homestand.

Let’s take a look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A+

Credit: John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

With the Thunder playing an ugly brand of basketball against the Jokic-less Nuggets, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander carried the offensive load once again.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 34 points on 13-of-21 shooting, five assists and five rebounds. The most important of those 13 made shots came with nine seconds left, as Gilgeous-Alexander banked in the short game-winner thanks to cutting to the basket and being in synch with Josh Giddey.

Something about All-Star Thunder guards hitting game-winners in Denver.

Add this moment to the growing collection of All-Star moments for Gilgeous-Alexander this season.

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Josh Giddey: B+

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

While Gilgeous-Alexander will get the headlines, Josh Giddey deserves as much credit for staying patient on the inbound pass and being a step ahead.

Giddey finished with 18 points on 9-of-17 shooting, nine rebounds and three assists. Despite the low assist number, he saved the most important one for last.

Giddey did most of his scoring in the first half with 14 points and hit all of his shots inside of the paint.

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Kenrich Williams: B

Credit: John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

Off the bench, Kenrich Williams had an all-around performance.

Williams finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting and went 3-of-5 from 3, six rebounds and four assists.

This included a pair of three-pointers in the fourth quarter that were crucial for the Thunder as they finished with just 20 points in the final frame.

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Lu Dort: B

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While it wasn’t his best shooting game, finishing with seven points on 3-of-13 shooting and 1-of-6 from 3, Lu Dort had the most critical stop of the night.

With nine seconds left, Dort stopped any chances of a tie or go-ahead basket when he forced Jamal Murray to miss a 14-foot two-point shot.

Dort guarded a Murray isolation to perfection and avoided fouling on a pump fake. Just textbook one-on-one defense that Dort is notorious for.

Murray scored 26 points but went 11-of-23 from the field. With Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. out, Murray was the only serious scoring option for the Nuggets.

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HIGHLIGHTS

Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire