Player grades: SGA, Chet Holmgren lead Thunder to 136-128 win over Wizards

It took a little more effort than anticipated, but the Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a much-needed win over the Washington Wizards, 136-128.

After going through a two-game skid, the Thunder returned to their winning ways by collecting a victory over one of the worst teams in the league. Even though the Wizards have a bottom-three record, they made it tough for OKC throughout the contest.

“We had to run through the finish line for sure,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said on the win. “We kept building leads and couldn’t get away from them. They made timely plays and timely shots and played all the way through. So obviously, we had to do that too and we did.”

Both teams were offensive juggernauts in this contest as they continued to exchange buckets throughout all four quarters. The Thunder built a 36-30 lead following the first quarter. At halftime, it stayed at a six-point lead following both teams having 31-point second frames.

Coming out of the break, the third quarter featured both teams putting up monster scoring numbers — OKC tallied 36 points and Washington 35 points. Neither team collected stops as the Thunder entered the final frame leading, 102-97.

The final frame saw the Wizards cut it to as little as six points multiple times, but OKC always answered back and kept a healthy distance on the scoreboard.

Overall, the Thunder shot 59% from the field and went 14-of-28 (50%) from 3. OKC collected a season-high 37 assists on 52 baskets. Ball security was a bit of a problem as it had 15 turnovers.

The Thunder were led by a pair of efficient 30-point scorers in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren. Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 32 points on 17 shots while Holmgren had 31 points on 14 shots.

Jalen Williams also contributed with a 21-point and 10-assist double-double. OKC’s bench produced 36 points with a pair of double-digit scorers in Isaiah Joe and Aaron Wiggins.

“I thought we had a really, really good floor game,” Daigneault said on the offensive outing. “Really good blend. Good pace up the floor; good side moving it side-to-side; good job playing it together inside the actions… I thought it was a really, really sound offensive effort.”

The offense keeps humming along, but OKC’s defense continues to show leakage in its current road trip. It’s given up an average of 131 points in its last three contests.

In the Wizards’ case, they shot 49% from the field and went 15-of-32 (46.9%) from 3. They also went 25-of-29 from the free-throw line. Washington dished out 32 assists on 44 baskets.

The Wizards had six players score double-digit points. Kyle Kuzma had 22 points and 15 rebounds; Jordan Poole had 24 points and five assists; Tyus Jones collected 18 points and nine assists.

“I thought tonight’s game was a lot different than the last two, to be honest with you,” Daigneault said on their recent defensive performances. “I thought our intensity and how hard we played tonight was much, much better.

“There were times in those other two games where we gave up a lot of unearned stuff and I didn’t think much tonight was unearned. There were certainly possessions but we made them earn it.”

By the end of the night, the Thunder never truly created a lopsided score as their largest lead was 13 points, but they also never surrendered the lead following the opening minutes.

It was a necessary win, but defensive concerns continue to exist for OKC during this recent stretch. The Thunder managed to get away with it against the Wizards, but this will need to get cleaned up once the quality of the opponent improves.

Let’s look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A-plus

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

An MVP candidate playing the worst defensive-rated team in the league usually results in a standout performance and that’s what Gilgeous-Alexander exactly did.

In 36 minutes, Gilgeous-Alexander totaled 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. He went 8-of-10 from the free-throw line.

The All-NBA guard got off to a hot start with 14 points in the first quarter. In the second half, he contributed with 16 points to close out the win. He did most of his scoring inside the paint, where he shot 9-of-12.

With the Wizards within single digits, Gilgeous-Alexander scored five consecutive points to push OKC’s lead back to 11 points with a little over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Overall, it was another highly efficient 30-point performance for Gilgeous-Alexander against a Wizards squad that doesn’t roster the personnel to slow him down.

Chet Holmgren: A-plus

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Against the worst defense in the league, Holmgren flirted with a 40-point burger.

In 32 minutes, Holmgren scored a season-high 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting to go along with five assists, four rebounds and two blocks. He went 4-of-5 from 3 as the Wizards continuously left him open. He also went 5-of-8 from the free-throw line.

The 21-year-old scored 30 points through the first three quarters as a 12-point third frame saw him score from both inside and outside. Washington had no answer for the seven-footer as he surpassed his career high with ease.

Jalen Williams: A

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout stretches of the game, Williams was the main ball-handler in a couple of lineups. The extra reps as a playmaker this season have helped him hone his facilitating skills.

In 34 minutes, Williams collected his first double-double of the season with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 10 assists. He also had seven rebounds and two steals.

With Gilgeous-Alexander usually resting the first half of the final frame, Williams has carved out a nice fourth-quarter role where he tallies up points while OKC’s best player rests.

Against the Wizards, Williams had 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the final frame. The 22-year-old kept hitting timely buckets to keep a distance on the scoreboard.

“Over time, he’s grown in confidence and comfort on the ball,” Daigneault said on Williams. “He’s always been a willing and great decision-maker. I’ve always respected that about him… He was excellent tonight with the ball in his hands. He just had a great blend.”

Isaiah Joe: B-plus

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder had a hot night from outside and Joe played a large part in that.

Off the bench, Joe scored 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting including a 4-of-7 night from 3. He and Holmgren combined for eight of OKC’s 14 made 3-pointers.

In the final frame, Joe hit consecutive 3-pointers for OKC in the final six minutes to keep it a double-digit lead as the Wizards threatened to come back.

It was a solid night from the OKC bench spearheaded by its sharpshooter.


Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire