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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Clemente Almanza

Player grades: Controversial ending causes Thunder to lose to Warriors, 141-139

OKLAHOMA CITY — After a lengthy review, the officials announced the unfortunate news to the OKC faithful that an offensive basket interference call was overturned.

The packed Paycom Center quickly rained down boos as this meant the Golden State Warriors were rewarded with the game-winning basket. The SGA-less Oklahoma City Thunder lost their first in-season tournament game, 141-139.

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The controversial final play spoiled an otherwise excellent night by the Thunder as they were without their best player in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was ruled out with a knee sprain.

So what exactly happened on the final play?

A Steph Curry floater was initially waved off as it looked like Draymond Green interfered with the basket. The call would’ve likely sent the high-scoring game into overtime.

Instead, the referees went over the monitor and had an extended review that eventually went against OKC’s favor. The offensive goaltend was overturned as the referees explained Josh Giddey touched the net before Green touched the basket.

Oddly enough, the points were initially awarded to Green instead of Curry before that was correct. After the game, Daigneault said the referees explained to him that while Green did touch the rim, it did not impact the play enough to call it an offensive goaltend.

“They said he touched the rim but not to the extent that it impacted the play,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said. “To be honest with you, I don’t really know how the rule’s written but that’s the explanation I got… I’m assuming they got that right.”

So yeah, that’s a lot to digest. Several different interpretations of the offensive goaltend rule have already been posted all over social media, so it’s nearly impossible to make sense of that final possession.

Regardless of the reasoning, the Thunder showed out in a playoff-esque environment against one of the greatest teams in league history. It was a back-and-forth contest that saw 15 lead changes and 15 ties. Neither team led by more than nine points.

“It was a great game to be in for our team,” Daigneault said. “I thought it was a classic game where every possession mattered obviously right up until the end of the game… It was a true 48-minute game, which is no place we’d rather be.”

OKC’s offense had its best showing of the season. It finished with 139 points on 50-of-83 (60.2%) shooting and 15-of-29 (51.7%) from 3. Playing with pace, the Thunder dished out 26 assists and flexed its offensive firepower.

Chet Holmgren and Lu Dort made up for Gilgeous-Alexander’s absence. The duo combined for 53 points. Holmgren had 24 points on 7-of-9 shooting while Dort had 29 points and had perfect 6-of-6 shooting from 3.

“It’s good to experience those types of games,” Dort said. “This team has had a lot of success in this league so it’s good to fight against those type of guys.

Meanwhile, the Warriors were led by Curry, who had 30 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Klay Thompson scored 18 points in the win. Green finished with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Off the bench, Jonathan Kuminga scored 19 points, ex-Thunder Dario Saric had 20 points and Chris Paul dished out 13 assists.

Golden State went 18-of-40 (45%) from 3 and dished out 36 assists. It scored over 30 points in every quarter and 141 points in regulation is elite offensive production.

“It was obviously a fun game to be a part of,” Daigneault said. “It was a really competitive game… The teams that improve with these experiences are the ones that play their best basketball later in the year and the ones that grow over time and that’s the team we want to be.

“I think it’s important that this one stings. Obviously, you want to win but we got to put this one in its proper place.”

Let’s look at Thunder player grades.

Chet Holmgren: A-

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Friday provided the first test to show how Holmgren would respond in a consequential environment and it’s fair to say he passed with flying colors.

In 32 minutes, Holmgren finished with 24 points on 7-of-9 shooting, eight rebounds and five assists. He also went 8-of-8 from the free-throw line. Without OKC’s best player, the 21-year-old picked up the slack.

If these are the types of gusty games Holmgren will have under pressure, then the Thunder have hit a home run with the 2022 No. 2 pick.

“It’s great,” Holmgren on facing the four-time champion Warriors. “Obviously, to be out there is always a blessing. These are the games you work so hard for and prepare for.”

Lu Dort: A+

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Without Gilgeous-Alexander, it turned into the Lu Dort show on offense.

In 30 minutes, Dort scored a season-high 29 points on 9-of-12 shooting and went 6-of-6 from 3. He also went 5-of-7 from the free-throw line. The fifth-year guard continues to add to his reputation of stepping up in big games.

“He’s a gamer man,” Daigneault said about Dort. “He does it time and time again. He just had a knack for rising to the level of the game. Always. He’s always there when the game rises to a certain level. Tonight was no different.”

During the third quarter, Dort and Curry duked it out as they exchanged buckets — the former had 16 points while the latter had 12 points. The 24-year-old single-handedly stopped a signature Golden State offensive onslaught from overwhelming OKC.

“I just had it going,” Dort said on his offensive outing. “I was hot.”

Cason Wallace: B+

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Earning the start with Gilgeous-Alexander out, Wallace fit right in with the Thunder’s starters and played a pivotal role in their well-oiled offense.

In 36 minutes, Wallace had 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting. The 19-year-old rookie continues to excel in the roles asked of him.

Daigneault referred to Wallace as a quick learner. He cited how Wallace gave Thompson too much space on one of his early 3-pointers and how after that, the rookie guard adjusted and limited him to just six 3-point attempts in 33 minutes.

“Over the course of the game, he figured it out,” Daigneault said about Wallace. “That’s how he’s been from the first day he’s been at training camp. He’s just figuring it out. He’s got great capacity. He’s a great competitor. He executes.”

Isaiah Joe: B+

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Off the bench, Joe scored 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting. This included 3-of-5 from 3 and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.

In the fourth quarter, the sharpshooting guard scored seven points in OKC’s comeback attempt. The biggest play of the final period for Joe was a 4-point play that gave OKC a three-point lead with 9:15 remaining.

Overall, it was solid bench production that was needed with Gilgeous-Alexander out.

Josh Giddey: B

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

In 31 minutes, Giddey collected 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting, five rebounds and four assists.

In the fourth quarter, Giddey had 14 points alone on 6-of-8 shooting. A nice bounce-back finish after a four-point, 2-of-7 outing in the first three quarters.

“He always stays fearless,” Daigneault said about Giddey. “That’s one of the things I respect about him competitively. He doesn’t shrink regardless of the circumstances. He’ll fail — like any player — but he fails aggressively.”

When asked about the final play, Giddey said he didn’t hear the referee’s decision but said he doesn’t believe the game came down to that final call.

“You just gotta move on and live with it,” Giddey said.


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