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

Player grades: SGA scores career-high 42 points and hits game-winner in 121-120 win over Wizards

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is him.

After having his previous MVP moment stolen by the Milwaukee Bucks, Gilgeous-Alexander regained it against the Washington Wizards.

For the Thunder’s 121-120 win over the Wizards, Gilgeous-Alexander will be the headliner. He hit the game-winning step-back 3 with 1.9 seconds left in the game. The 3-pointer gave him a career-high tying 42 points.

The mildly quiet Wizards crowd was silenced by the shot.

It looked as though the Wizards were on the verge of winning their fifth-consecutive game after Bradley Beal, who returned after a five-game absence due to health and safety protocols, hit a baseline fading-midrange shot to give the Wizards the two-point lead with 6.1 seconds left.

Clearly, it was just not meant to be Beal’s night. Gilgeous-Alexander stole the spotlight four seconds later with his own high-level difficulty shot.

Even though their team lost on a heartbreaker, the Wizards crowd couldn’t help appreciating the greatness they witnessed with Gilgeous-Alexander’s performance. They chanted “MVP” following the game.

At this point, Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the best players in the league, and the more he plays, the more eyes are drawn to Oklahoma City.

The Thunder are slowly creeping back into the national conversation and Gilgeous-Alexander playing like an MVP candidate is responsible for that.

Let’s take a look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A-plus

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

If there was a way to give Gilgeous-Alexander a better grade than A-plus, I would.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished the night by tying his career high with 42 points on 14-of-21 shooting,  seven assists and six rebounds. Gilgeous-Alexander uncharacteristically went 12-of-17 from the free-throw line — entering the night, he had shot 94% from the charity stripe. Thankfully, that didn’t come back to bite the Thunder after Gilgeous-Alexander’s late-game heroics.

The moment of the game easily happened with 1.9 seconds to go.

Beginning the possession in the perimeter and defended by Wizards guard Monte Morris, Gilgeous-Alexander used his elbow to create space and hit the difficult step-back three for the win.

Instead of celebrating the shot with his teammates, Gilgeous-Alexander rose his index finger to indicate there was still time left in the game.

1.9 seconds and a Wizards turnover later, Gilgeous-Alexander was able to celebrate the biggest moment of his monster season and was bathed in cold water by his teammates.

After playing like it, Gilgeous-Alexander finally earned his MVP moment.

On the season, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 32.3 points on 54.8%  shooting, 5.9 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 14 games this season.

This dude is just special.

Lu Dort: B

Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

What makes Gilgeous-Alexander’s night that much more special was the second-leading scorer on the Thunder had just 16 points. That was Lu Dort.

Nobody else on the team scored more than 11 points. 11! For comparison, the Wizards had six players score at least 11 points this game.

For Dort, he finished with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting and went 3-of-6 from 3. A decent performance in a vacuum, but with the added context that Gilgeous-Alexander essentially had to win this game by himself, other Thunder players need to step up in the future.

Lindy Waters III: A

Rob Carr/Getty Images

While he didn’t stand out with his counting stats, Lindy Waters III was an impressive plus-32 in 27 minutes. This was a game high. Waters III started the second half in place of Josh Giddey and finished with nine points and shot 3-of-7 from deep.

Waters III was impressive with his activity off the ball this game and did a valiant job on defense. While his box score stats don’t stand out, it was clear he made a positive impact on the floor.

Josh Giddey: C-minus

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

This was not Josh Giddey’s best game. Giddey’s sophomore season continues to include lots of ups and downs and this was definitely a down.

After joining Wilt Chamberlain in the record books at Madison Square Garden, Giddey has struggled in two games since then.

In 20 minutes, Giddey was a negative-23. Giddey finished with 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting and six rebounds. Giddey couldn’t stay out of foul trouble either; he committed four fouls in 20 minutes. This could be the reason — along with his poor play — why Giddey did not play the entire third quarter.

With the criticism of his overall play handed out, credit to Giddey for hitting a clutch 3 — his only one of the game as he shot 1-of-3 from deep — in the fourth quarter to give the Thunder a 101-98 lead. After sitting on the bench for so long, Giddey deserves credit for staying ready.


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