Player grades: SGA-less Thunder can’t keep up with Kings in 124-115 loss

OKLAHOMA CITY — A 40-point third quarter made it interesting but the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the second consecutive game, ultimately lost to the Sacramento Kings, 124-115.

The biggest sequence of the game happened at the 7:14 to 7:08 mark of the fourth quarter. After Kenrich Williams blew a layup that would’ve cut the Kings’ lead to five points, Trey Lyles hit a three-pointer seconds later to give the Kings a 10-point lead.

For the remaining seven minutes, the Kings never led by fewer than eight points and the Thunder ended the night without ever taking a lead.

“Credit them, the effort it takes to defend them for 48 minutes is substantial,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “They play with great pace, they have good creators and they got shooting everywhere. It’s not easy to do, but if you want to win the game it’s what you have to do,”

Without their one-time All-Star, the Thunder offense did an impressive job as they shot 41-of-86 (47.7%) from the field and 16-of-40 (40%) from 3.

“Offensive, we were great in the second half. That wasn’t the problem,” Daigneault said.

The problem was on the other end.

Unfortunately for the Thunder, the Kings — who have the best offensive rating in the league at 118 points per 100 possessions — kept pace as they shot 45-of-85 (52.9%) from the field and went 18-of-43 (41.9%) from 3.

With no Gilgeous-Alexander, De’Aaron Fox provided the offensive fireworks as he finished with 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting and eight assists. Keegan Murray contributed with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Domantas Sabonis finished with a near triple-double of 14 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.

Outside of a third-quarter scare, the Kings outscored the Thunder 88-75 in the other three quarters. An impressive display of high-octane offense from a team that came off a 176-point double overtime win against the LA Clippers.

“We knew obviously they came off a big game. They were feeling good, confident. They won a couple so they were rolling,” Josh Giddey said. “They kinda threw the first punch… We kinda kept the game within reach for the most part. We made a late run in the end of the third (quarter) but then they got going in the fourth (quarter) and kinda blew it open a little bit… We fought hard but just wasn’t enough tonight.”

For the first time since mid-December, the Thunder have now lost three consecutive games and are winless since the All-Star break. A tough time to hit a skid as the Western Conference standings are jam-packed.

The Thunder will get a chance to redeem this loss as they play the Kings again on Tuesday to conclude the mini-baseball series.

Let’s take a look at Thunder player grades.

Isaiah Joe: A

Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Isaiah Joe has picked up a lot of the scoring slack.

Against the Phoenix Suns in a loss, Joe scored a career-high 28 points.

Against the Kings, Joe finished with 24 points on 6-of-11 shooting and went 4-of-8 from 3. Joe also mimicked Gilgeous-Alexander’s ability to draw fouls as he went a career-high 8-of-11 from the free-throw line.

21 of Joe’s 24 points came in the second half, where he led the charge of a comeback attempt in the third quarter with 12 points in seven minutes.

After starting the second half off the bench, Joe checked in and made an immediate impact when the OKC offense needed it.

“It’s great to play with a knockdown shooter. He spaces the floor so well. He draws a lot of attention. Defenses don’t wanna leave him,” Giddey said about Joe. “He’s confidence — doesn’t matter if he’s 0-for-10, he’s shooting that next (shot) like he’s 10-for-10.”

Josh Giddey: B+

Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Playing in his first home game since All-Star break, Josh Giddey looked much more comfortable.

After a two-game skid that saw Giddey go 11-of-37 (29.7%) from the field, he bounced back with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds and five assists against the Kings.

Playing against one of the worst paint defenses — and defenses in general — does wonders for a player’s confidence. It’s now about carrying this performance over in the future.

Lu Dort: C

Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Just like Giddey, Lu Dort had a much better performance compared to his previous outing.

Dort finished with 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting and went 4-of-9 from 3. Dort also grabbed five rebounds.

The outside shooting is encouraging as Dort was OKC’s best non-Joe shooter on the night. Despite the decent offensive production, Dort — along with the rest of the Thunder — struggled to contain De’Aaron Fox as he finished with 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting.

Lindy Waters III: A

Lindy Waters III certainly earned his check on Sunday.

After scoring 18 points in the OKC Blue’s afternoon G League game, the two-way player double-dipped against the Kings.

It was all hands on deck without Gilgeous-Alexander.

Waters III scored a season-high 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting that featured him going 3-of-5 from 3 in 17 minutes off the bench. Waters III and Joe led the comeback charge in the 40-point fourth quarter as the duo combined for 18 points and went a combined 5-of-7 from deep.

“Those guys know they’re live,” Daigneault said. “… I liked how he played today in the Blue game… He played so well, I just kept going back to him.”


Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire