Player grades: Thunder fail to cool off Paul George in 128-117 loss to Clippers

Stripping the ball off of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Paul George accelerated down the court for the impressive reversed one-handed jam. It was only fitting the All-Star forward hit the dagger after a monster fourth quarter.

The Oklahoma City Thunder couldn’t close it out in their 128-117 loss to the LA Clippers. After OKC took a brief one-point lead, the Clippers finished the contest on a 14-2 run in the final three-and-a-half minutes.

Following the first quarter, the Clippers capped off a high-scoring opening frame with a 35-30 lead. By halftime, LA’s lead dwindled to 65-61 in a competitive first half.

In the third quarter, the Clippers grew their lead with a 34-point frame and entered the fourth quarter with a 99-89 lead. An Aaron Wiggins layup concluded a 17-9 run by OKC to open the final frame to make it a two-point contest with a little under seven minutes left.

From that point forward, both teams exchanged buckets before the aforementioned 14-2 run helped the Clippers create distance on the scoreboard.

After a sluggish showing in their loss to the Los Angeles Lakers the previous night, the Thunder’s elite offensive production returned to form in their second night at Crypto Arena. OKC shot 51% from the field and went 16-of-34 (47.1%) from 3. From the free-throw line, it shot 17-of-20. It dished out 30 assists on 42 baskets.

For a second consecutive night, Jalen Williams led the Thunder in scoring. The second-year wing had 25 points and seven assists. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was limited to 19 points and Lu Dort had 19 points as well.

Meanwhile, the red-hot Clippers shot 54% from the field and went 20-of-43 (46.5%) from 3. They totaled 30 assists on 47 baskets. LA had five players score double-digit points.

Paul George scored a season-high 38 points on 15-of-24 shooting and went 6-of-12 from 3. He scored 18 points in the final frame to lead LA to the win — including 11 of its final 14 points.

Kawhi Leonard — who missed the first matchup between these teams earlier this season — had 16 points, six assists and six rebounds. James Harden tallied 16 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Mason Plumlee had 14 points and five rebounds.

Playing on TNT, the Thunder showed out for a national audience. This matchup was advertised as a heavyweight bout between two of the best teams in the league and it lived up to its billing.

The final few minutes exposed OKC’s youth and inexperience, but it was a solid road showing for the Thunder. They’ll now need to move on and try to snap a two-game skid.

Let’s look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: C

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It was a tough two-day stay in LA for Gilgeous-Alexander. After being limited against the Lakers, the Clippers did an even better job at making him look uncomfortable.

In 34 minutes, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting and had four assists. He shot 0-of-3 from 3 and went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.

He was limited to 10 points in the first half. A nine-point third quarter was classic Gilgeous-Alexander, but he was held scoreless in the final five minutes of the contest.

The Clippers have a great defensive wing tandem in Leonard and George, so they likely played a role in Gilgeous-Alexander’s slow night. But one has to wonder how much his recently sprained knee played a role in these last two performances.

Regardless of the reasoning, the Thunder will need Gilgeous-Alexander to quickly return to his MVP form to wrap up the second half of this four-game road trip.

Jalen Williams: A-plus

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest positive of this two-game skid might be Williams’ continuing emergence as OKC’s second-best scorer.

Playing against future Hall-of-Fame frontcourt players like Leonard, George, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Williams stood his ground as a second-year wing.

In 33 minutes, Williams had 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, seven assists and three rebounds. Once again, he had a monster fourth quarter with 12 points.

This included five straight points less than two minutes into the final frame to keep it close. Williams hit a 3-pointer in the final frame to give OKC its sole second-half lead of 115-114 with 3:37 left in regulation.

The 22-year-old has ascended since Daigneault gave him his own lineups with the second unit and he’s played beyond his experience against several multi-time All-Stars.

Lu Dort: A-minus

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Playing on national television, Dort had one of his best games of the season. He continues to add to his mythos that when the stakes rise, so does his performances.

In 33 minutes, Dort had 19 points on 5-of-10 shooting and went 5-of-8 from 3. With both teams scoring at a fast rate, he contributed with 12 points in the first half.

On the defensive side, he helped guard the backcourt of Harden and Terence Mann — who were limited to a combined 23 points on 20 shots.

With Chet Holmgren and Josh Giddey struggling, Dort picked up some of the scoring slack for his fellow Thunder starters. It was a great showing on both ends for the starting wing.

Isaiah Joe: A

It was a night-and-day difference for Joe during this Los Angeles back-to-back.

The outside shot fell for Joe as he scored 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from 3 in 23 minutes off the bench. He also had six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

This included a nine-point second half to help OKC keep it within reach for the final two quarters. He also dished out the assist to Williams that gave the Thunder their only lead in the second half.

After four points on 2-of-10 shooting against the Lakers, Joe had a much better outing against the Clippers. Such is life in the NBA with the outside shot.


Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire