Player grades: SGA’s 37 points leads Thunder to 112-100 win over Magic

OKLAHOMA CITY — Matching up with Paolo Banchero, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander beat him to the basket to hit the reserve layup. The highlight shot gave OKC a double-digit lead with a little over four minutes left.

The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up their sixth consecutive home victory in a 112-100 win over the Orlando Magic. A 27-11 record now has the Thunder tied for first place in the Western Conference standings.

“That was a really, really good well-earned win by us,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said on the win. “Defense I thought was on it. I thought we did a really good job on Banchero… I thought offensively, we really generated great shots for a lot of the floor game.”

A sluggish start saw the Thunder create a 23-21 lead following the first quarter. By halftime, that lead grew to a low-scoring 49-43. Coming out of the break, the Thunder’s offense returned to form. A 37-point third quarter helped OKC enter the final frame with an 86-73 lead.

Less than three minutes into the final frame, the SGA-less Thunder created a game-high 16-point lead. The fourth quarter didn’t provide much drama as the closest the Magic got was within six points.  OKC did an excellent job at keeping distance on the scoreboard the rest of the way.

Outside of a small blemish in the first frame, OKC led for the entire night as the short-handed Magic battled fatigue and injuries on the second night of a road back-to-back.

The Thunder shot 46% from the field and went 8-of-36 (22.2%) from 3. OKC shot 18-of-21 from the free-throw line. All five starters scored double-digit points.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 37 points and seven assists. Jalen Williams had 16 points and Chet Holmgren had 15 points.

“We’ve had a very unselfish spirit really the whole season,” Daigneault said on their offensive flow. “They work together to find the best shots and they work together to find the best advantages.”

Meanwhile, the Magic shot 46% from the field and went 7-of-35 (20%) from 3. Orlando struggled from the free-throw line as it went 15-of-24.

Banchero scored a team-high 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting. Caleb Houstan contributed with 14 points and went 4-of-12 from 3. Off the bench, Cole Anthony scored 14 points and Anthony Black scored 13 points.

Even though their shot didn’t fall at the clip they’ve recently grown accustomed to, the Thunder picked up another solid win over the improved Magic.

This was a neat way to wrap up a quick two-game homestand before returning to the grueling road as they begin a four-game road trip.

Let’s look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A-plus

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

With the Thunder’s offense struggling, Gilgeous-Alexander helped make up for the off-shooting night by turning in a near 40-point performance.

In 36 minutes, Gilgeous-Alexander had 37 points on an efficient 13-of-20 shooting, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals. He went 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. An impressive showing against the fifth-best defensive-rated team in the league.

Gilgeous-Alexander helped carry the scoring load for OKC in the opening frame, totaling 14 of its 23 first-quarter points.

In the fourth quarter, he helped close out the win by scoring seven points in the final six minutes of the contest. The Magic had no answer for him as he scored with ease inside of the paint — which included six and-one opportunities.

“A lot of core strength, I work on my core a lot,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That’s the main thing I work on in summertime. And then I’m always working on my touch around the basket. I just try to focus. After you get hit and you have a shot to make it a three-point play, it’s worth the second of focus to try and get three points.”

Jalen Williams: B

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

It was once again the Williams lineup in the fourth quarter that helped maintain separation on the scoreboard in a close contest.

When Gilgeous-Alexander checked out at the beginning of the final frame, OKC led by 13 points; by the time he checked back in, it was still a nine-point lead with seven minutes left.

Overall, Williams had 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting, six rebounds and two assists. His buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third quarter provided OKC with a boost entering the final frame that carried over.

The 22-year-old scored eight of his points in the fourth quarter to put this game to bed. Williams continues to take advantage of his second unit lineups as OKC is successful with them on the court.

Chet Holmgren: B

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

In a matchup headlined by the top two picks of the 2022 NBA draft, neither of them left an impressive mark in the outcome of this contest.

Instead, Holmgren played within the flow and finished with 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists. He shot 1-of-5 from 3.

Coming out of halftime, Holmgren helped OKC get out of an offensive punk with 11 points. The Thunder’s 37 third-quarter points nearly matched their 49-point first-half efforts.

On the defensive side, Holmgren helped OKC outscore Orlando inside of the paint, 62-48. The 14-point advantage could mainly be attributed to his rim protection.

Vasilije Micic: B

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

After spending the first chunk of the season seldom playing, Micic has found himself a nice role as the backup point guard for the Thunder. He’s helped lead the second unit by creating quality looks for his teammates.

Against the Magic, Micic had seven points on 3-of-5 shooting and two rebounds. His lone assist came off a highlight pass where he found Isaiah Joe in transition for the posterizing dunk.

For most of the season, OKC has lacked an extra ball-handler who can spell the starters. If Micic continues to find his groove, perhaps the Thunder will have that addition within the roster.


Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire