Player grades: Thunder can’t overcome Lauri Markannen’s 43 points in 120-119 OT loss to Jazz

The basketball circled around the hoop before ultimately rimming out.

With a chance to hit an overtime game-winner, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander let off a quality elbow mid-range jumper that didn’t dip into the hoop in a 120-119 overtime loss to the Utah Jazz.

It was a decent look considering the circumstances but that didn’t make this one-point loss any easier to stomach.

“The locker room was disappointed, which is a good thing,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said. “It means we’re invested in the game. The best part about that one is I thought a lot about what we can control in the fourth quarter and overtime let us down. It wasn’t one we can write off on luck and those are the best losses… We gotta look in the mirror on that one because there were a lot of things we could’ve done better.”

While Gilgeous-Alexander had a chance to decide the outcome of this back-and-forth contest, the previous two possessions arguably had bigger influences on the result.

After forcing himself to the free-throw line, Gilgeous-Alexander — the 90%-plus shooter — went an uncharacteristic 1-of-2 from the charity stripe to give the Thunder a two-point lead with 12.1 seconds left in overtime.

On the next possession, Lauri Markkanen — who outplayed his fellow All-Star with 43 points and 10 rebounds — drew a three-point shooting foul on Lu Dort off of a curl. The Thunder challenged the call but were not able to get it reversed as Markkanen made all three free-throw attempts to give the Jazz the game-winning points.

While fans will harp onto that foul call as the reason the Thunder lost, a poor final 17 minutes in the fourth quarter and overtime owned a larger responsibility for the disappointing loss.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Thunder built an 86-78 lead. With 7:17 left, the Thunder maintained the eight-point advantage.

From that point on though, the Jazz outscored the Thunder 35-26 in the final 12 minutes — which included 14 points in overtime.

The Thunder struggled to score efficiently, as they went 45-of-112 (40.2%) from the field and a poor 8-of-37 (21.6%) from 3. The saving grace for the offense was OKC’s ability to get to the free-throw line, where they went 21-of-27 (77.8%).

Meanwhile, the Jazz also struggled on offense as they shot 42-of-100 (42%) from the field and 13-of-48 (27.1%) from 3. Similar to their opponent, the Jazz went 23-of-27 (85.2%) from the free-throw line.

Despite playing against one of the best young rim-protecting bigs in Walker Kessler — who finished with seven points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks — the Thunder stuck to their brand of basketball as they went 30-of-64 (46.9%) inside of the paint.

While the efficiency wasn’t there, the volume certainly was and it led to a big free-throw shooting night for the Thunder.

Speaking of Kessler, he was fantastic for the Jazz. Outside of his impressive stat-line (which included him shooting and making his first three-pointer in the opening possession), he played a pivotal role for the Jazz in this home win at the end of regulation.

Trailing by two points with 16.1 seconds left, Kessler grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds during a hectic three-second period that saw him tie the game with a second-chance (third-chance?) layup.

On the other end with 4.1 seconds left, Kessler blocked an Isaiah Joe reverse layup drive to send the game into overtime.

The Jazz only out-rebounded the Thunder by four, but it felt like a lot more in the closing minutes of the game as they kept getting scoring opportunities due to their ability to grab their misses.

In fourth quarter and overtime, the Jazz collected seven offensive rebounds compared to the Thunder’s two.

“I thought we kinda held them in check on the glass until late in the game,” Daigneault said. “… I thought it was a factor — especially late.”

This loss stings, as Daigneault alluded to the quietness that filled OKC’s locker room — and it’s hard to blame them for feeling that way.

Entering Thursday, the Jazz trailed by the Thunder by just half a game in the standings. Both team’s spots in the standings switched as the Jazz are now the 10th seed while the Thunder are the 11th seed.

The Thunder will have plenty of chances to amend this loss as they play the Jazz three more times in their final 24 games of the regular season — and considering how jam-packed the standings are, the Thunder are going to need every one of those games.

Let’s take a look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A

Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The only reason why Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has an A instead of an A+ is because of a quiet fourth quarter and overtime from the one-time All-Star.

With the Thunder playing a tight game where neither team trailed by more than 10 points, Gilgeous-Alexander scored just eight points on 3-of-8 shooting in 12 minutes during the final 17 minutes of this game.

This include missing on a chance to hit the game-winner at the end of overtime and missing a critical free throw that kept the Thunder’s lead to just two points before Lauri Markannen sunk in three free throws.

Overall though, Gilgeous-Alexander was fantastic as he finished with 39 points on 12-of-26 shooting and went a career-high tying 15-of-19 from the free-throw line. Gilgeous-Alexander also added eight rebounds and seven assists.

Like he’s done all season, Gilgeous-Alexander kept hammering into the paint as he went 11-of-20. This aggressiveness also helped Gilgeous-Alexander reach 19 free throws.

History was also made as Gilgeous-Alexander passed Steven Adams for fourth all-time scoring leader in Thunder history. It’s only a matter of time before he passes Serge Ibaka for the No. 3 spot too, as Gilgeous-Alexander only needs 849 points to surpass him.

Something tells me it’ll be a long time before someone takes a top-two spot from Russell Westbrook (18,859 points) and Kevin Durant (15,942 points) though.

Kenrich Williams: A-

Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

At a certain point in this game, it looked like Kenrich Williams was going to single-handedly close this road win out for OKC.

In the span of 53 seconds, Williams went on a personal 5-0 run to give the Thunder a 100-95 lead over the Jazz with 3:18 left in the fourth quarter.

As you know by now, that mini-run ultimately will get lost in the story of this game but Williams definitely deserves credit for both that moment and his overall game.

In 28 minutes off the bench, Williams finished with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, four rebound and three assists.

“There at the end, we kinda got sloppy a bit,” Williams said.

After the game, Williams was very complimentary of first-time All-Star Markannen, who finished with 43 points on 15-of-28 shooting and 10 rebounds.

“I played him previously on different teams and he looks like a completely different player this year,” Williams said. “… He’s an All-Star for a reason.”

Lu Dort: C

Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

This was a tough game to grade Lu Dort one because he was involved in two of the biggest moments for the Thunder — both for a good reason and a bad reason.

The bad reason is an obvious one as his three-point shooting foul led to Markannen hitting the game-winning free throws to give the Jazz the win.

“There’s no situation we like more than Lu on an island against their best player late in the game,” Daigneault said. “… It’s a tough one because Markannen’s got size on him.”

The good reason is one most will forget by tomorrow due to the result of the game, but it was a huge moment.

After Gilgeous-Alexander missed a chance to take a lead with 1:10 left in regulation, Dort muscled his way into grabbing the offensive rebound and drew a shooting foul, where he made both attempts and gave OKC the two-point lead with 1:08 left in the game.

Overall, Dort finished with 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting that included going 0-of-5 from 3, 11 rebounds and four assists.

“His toughness was felt tonight,” Daigneault said.

Josh Giddey: C-

Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Giddey struggled to create quality looks inside of the paint as he resorted to throwing up weirdly-angled floaters.

This explains Giddey’s poor shooting night as he finished with 18 points on 8-of-23 shooting, 0-of-5 shooting from 3 and 11 rebounds.

Inside of the paint, Giddey shot an inefficient 7-of-17 shooting where he forced several bad looks inside of a crowded paint.

This was just a poor game for Giddey where six overtime points was his biggest contribution.

Jaylin Williams: A

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To end on a positive note, let’s talk about how great Jaylin Williams looked in his third consecutive start.

Williams finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting that included going 3-of-4 from outside and six rebounds. On the season, Williams is shooting 21-of-44 (47.7%) from 3.

If you paid close enough attention to the Thunder broadcast, you could’ve heard three audible ‘booms’ from Williams’ deep voice.

Williams also drew a pair of charges that racks up his total to 20 on the season — which ranks third in the entire league, an impressive feat for a rookie who barely played the first half of the season (funny enough Williams’ teammate Kenrich Williams is first in the league in charges drawn at 25).


Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire