Player grades: SGA, Jalen Williams total 65 points in Thunder’s 127-113 win over Magic

Walking towards the perimeter, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander suddenly made a quick turn and created enough space from Paolo Banchero with a mini-stepback to swish in the fading baseline jumper.

The All-Star starter then turned to the crowd and gestured for them to go home. The Oklahoma City Thunder will enter the 2024 All-Star break on a high note after collecting a 127-113 win over the Orlando Magic.

After trailing by as many as 11 points in the opening frame, OKC cut it down to a one-point deficit following the first quarter.

The Thunder scored 29 points in the second frame to enter halftime with a 60-52 lead. OKC’s reserves did an excellent job surviving Gilgeous-Alexander’s first-half struggles.

Then in the third quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander turned it up and led the Thunder to a 32-point frame by accounting for 15 of those points. OKC entered the final frame with a 92-82 lead.

With Gilgeous-Alexander on the bench, the Thunder went on a massive 19-8 run in the final frame to build a double-digit lead. By the time Gilgeous-Alexander checked back in, OKC held a 16-point lead with a little over six minutes left.

After leading by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter, Orlando went on a 14-4 run in the final minutes to cut OKC’s lead to as little as 11 points, but alas, there wasn’t enough time to make a serious push.

Jalen Williams headlined the Thunder’s 35-point final frame. He scored an eye-popping 17 points in 10 minutes with slices to the basket as Orlando struggled to limit him.

Overall, the Thunder shot 55% from the field and went 13-of-32 (40.6%) from 3. They went a nearly perfect 22-of-24 from the free-throw line. They dished out 28 assists on 46 baskets.

This was an impressive showing considering the Magic have the fourth-best defensive rating in the league. OKC got plenty of quality looks and looked in rhythm for the entire contest.

The duo of Gilgeous-Alexander and Williams once again led the way for OKC with 65 combined points on 55% shooting — Gilgeous-Alexander had 32 points and five assists and Williams had 33 points on 18 shots.

Chet Holmgren also contributed with 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocks.

Meanwhile, the Magic shot 45% from the field and went 11-of-36 (30.6%) from 3. They went 20-of-25 from the free-throw line. They had 29 assists on 41 baskets.

Banchero had 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting, 10 assists and six rebounds. Wendell Carter Jr. had 22 points and six rebounds. Jalen Suggs scored 17 points and shot 4-of-12 from 3. Franz Wagner was limited to 15 points on 16 shots.

The Thunder enter their week-plus long break with an impressive road win. The Magic entered this contest hot, winning five of their last six contests.

OKC managed to play spoiler for Shaq’s jersey retirement ceremony and enter the All-Star break a clean 20 games above .500, which is the fifth time it’s happened in franchise history.

Let’s look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A-plus

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

As the saying goes, it was a tale of two halves for Gilgeous-Alexander.

After being limited to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in the first half, Gilgeous-Alexander quickly shrugged off any concerns of a bad performance with an inferno third frame.

The 25-year-old tallied 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the third frame and was responsible for nearly half of OKC’s points in the quarter. Orlando had no answer for him as he got to his spots with ease and swished in self-created jumper after self-created jumper.

The fourth quarter saw Gilgeous-Alexander come in and put the finishing touches of a nice road win with nine points that included six trips to the free-throw line.

Overall, Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 32 points on 11-of-24 shooting, five assists, three rebounds and two steals in 34 minutes. He shot 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.

It was another efficient 30-point outing for Gilgeous-Alexander as he continues to rack them up like nothing. It’s only fitting he ended the first half of his MVP-esque campaign playing like this in front of a national audience.

Jalen Williams: A-plus

With Gilgeous-Alexander on the bench, Williams stepped up in the final frame and delivered another monster fourth-quarter performance to serve as OKC’s closer.

In 35 minutes, Williams had 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting, three assists and two rebounds. He shot 3-of-6 from 3 and went 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.

Williams scored 14 points in the first half as Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to get going against Orlando. The 22-year-old tallied 17 points in the fourth quarter with several deep finishes inside of the paint.

It’s now back-to-back efficient 30-point outings for Williams, who continues to establish himself as OKC’s second-best scorer. The second-year wing has turned the corner as a self-creating scorer who thrives with the ball in his hands.

Chet Holmgren: A-minus

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The volume was high, but the Magic struggled to be efficient inside of the paint. A lot of that has to be attributed to another great performance by Holmgren.

In 32 minutes, Holmgren had 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting, nine rebounds and five blocks. He shot 1-of-3 from 3 and went 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.

Orlando struggled to get consistent finishes around the rim and the seven-foot shot-blocker’s presence played a huge role in that. The 21-year-old has played a pivotal part in OKC’s successful first half of the season by suiting up for every game.

Josh Giddey: B-minus

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

It was a much better outing for Giddey compared to the last couple of games. The Thunder utilized him more appropriately and the 21-year-old didn’t settle for awkward crowded jumpers.

In 27 minutes, Giddey had 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting, five assists and five rebounds. He shot 0-of-3 from 3.

He made much better decisions off the ball and found seams for assisted baskets inside of the paint. With Gilgeous-Alexander struggling in the first half, Giddey was part of the reason why OKC stayed afloat with all 10 points coming in the first half.

This is the blueprint for maximizing Giddey. The outside shot will always be a struggle for him, but if he can continue to stay active off-ball, make quick decisions with the ball and not settle for highly-contested jumpers, then it’ll benefit both parties.


Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire