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

Player grades: Thunder snap two-game skid with 133-110 win over Lakers

OKLAHOMA  CITY — Repositioning in the post, Chet Holmgren let off a fadeaway turnaround jumper over Anthony Davis that swished in.

It was that type of scoring night for the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they snapped a two-game losing skid with a 133-110 blowout win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It was like an energy, work win tonight,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said on the win. “I just thought we really exerted ourselves on the game. Our defense; how we scrambled; our running. We were just fast tonight. I thought we worked for that win.”

After a slow start saw them trail the Lakers by seven points following the first quarter, a 42-point second quarter boosted OKC’s winning odds as it entered halftime with a 72-60 lead.

The halftime break didn’t deter OKC’s well-oiled scoring machine as it scored 36 points in the third quarter to enter the final frame with a 108-88 lead.

The Thunder maintained a healthy distance on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter despite the Lakers’ comeback attempt. Los Angeles only managed to cut it to as little as 15 points in the final frame before a Davis miss resulted in a Lu Dort 3-pointer that pushed OKC’s lead back to 18 points with four minutes left.

Following a timeout in the aftermath of that sequence, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham waved the white flag and cleared his bench the rest of the way.

Points were easy to come by for the Thunder against the Lakers, who played on the second night of a road back-to-back. OKC shot 53% from the field and went 14-of-42 (33.3%) from 3. It enjoyed a friendly whistle as it shot 19-of-22 (86.4%) from the free-throw line. The fast break was the Thunder’s friend as they outscored the veteran Lakers in that area, 26-12.

Meanwhile, the Lakers also had a decent night from the floor as they shot 44% and went a respectable 11-of-33 (33.3%) from 3. They enjoyed an even friendlier whistle with a 27-of-32 (84.4%) night from the charity stripe.

The difference in this game can be assessed by shot volume — OKC attempted 94 shots while Los Angeles only had 81 shots. The Thunder displayed excellent ball security with just seven turnovers while the Lakers turned it over 13 times.

For the Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 33 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams also contributed with 18 points and 21 points respectively. Seven players for OKC scored double-digit points.

Meanwhile, the Lakers were led by Davis, who had a monster night with 31 points and 14 rebounds — but was held to 16 points in the final three quarters. In his first game at OKC since Dec. 2021, LeBron James — who was a game-time decision — was limited to 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

“I just thought we had a really, really good recognition of who they tried to play through,” Daigneault said on their defense of the All-Star duo. “We put him in a crowd. I thought we did a good job, an appropriate job on James… I thought there were a lot of possessions where we forced them out on what they wanna do.”

Overall, this was a solid win for the Thunder after losing two consecutive games. They played a respectable — albeit likely fatigued — opponent with a two-star duo.

“We went out and earned a win in an NBA game, which is the mentality we have to have every night,” Daigneault said.

Williams mentioned postgame he can start to feel teams take the young Thunder more seriously this season compared to the last, noting how James likely would’ve previously sat out this game.

At 12-6 and third place in the West, it feels like the tides are starting to turn for OKC — if they haven’t already.

“It’s a lot more serious,” Williams said on how teams treat them this season. “This might’ve been one of the games where they might rest people… Now people are taking us more serious… I think everybody is starting to respect us a little more.

Let’s look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

It was another dominant performance for Gilgeous-Alexander. In 35 minutes, he scored 33 points on 11-of-18 shooting, seven assists and four rebounds. He shot a perfect 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.

This included a 22-point first half as he helped OKC quickly overcome a 14-point deficit. Per usual, Gilgeous-Alexander did most of his scoring damage within the perimeter as he hit on a variety of drives and self-created midrange jumpers following mesmerizing dribbling.

At this point, expecting an efficient 30 points is the standard Gilgeous-Alexander has set. It’s what happens when you play like an All-NBA player for over a season.

When asked how he manages to not let his superstardom get to his head, Gilgeous-Alexander listed two reasons why he remains modest.

“I really like my teammates, like genuinely,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “…It’s a special group of guys. I enjoy being around them…

“I prioritize winning and you can’t win alone. I need every one of those guys to get done what I want to get done.”

Chet Holmgren: B

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Holmgren capped off a three-game gauntlet against mighty frontcourts with a quality outing.

In 28 minutes, Holmgren collected 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting and five rebounds. He shot 1-of-6 from 3.

Even though Davis dominated against OKC, Holmgren held his own on the other end as he played within the flow of the offense in this lopsided win. Both players had their fair share of ‘gotcha’s’ against each other.

“Chet’s so confident nobody has to tell him, to be honest,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of Holmgren. “He’s talented. He has a great feel for the game. He has super high confidence… We all know what kind of player he is, he’s unselfish and he really wants to win it at the end of the day.”

Davis was much more about brute force while Holmgren had a little bit more finesse. The 21-year-old showed off his ball-handling skills several times throughout the night.

“It comes down to understanding what the defense is giving me,” Holmgren said on his shot aggression. “If sometimes that’s a one-on-one play, I got to be ready to make a play.”

Jalen Williams: B

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

In his second game back from a three-game absence dealing with a hip strain, Williams looked a lot more comfortable.

In 29 minutes, Williams had 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, seven assists and five rebounds. He shot 1-of-4 from 3 and went 4-of-5 from the free-throw line.

The 22-year-old helped catapult OKC to its 42-point second quarter as he scored nine points in the frame. This was a solid game by the second-year wing that reminisced last year’s post-All-Star break run.

“Just trying to find my feet and rhythm within the team,” Williams said on returning. “It’s especially hard when we’re playing really well… I feel like I’m kinda already back in rhythm. Luckily, this week that I missed was probably the best week to miss just as regards to how many days we got off.”

Josh Giddey: C

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

After a bad couple of weeks, Giddey had his best game in who knows how long against the Lakers.

The 21-year-old looked more comfortable this game with the ball in his hands, showing shades of how he played his first two seasons.

In 21 minutes, Giddey had 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting and eight rebounds. The outside shot fell for Giddey, which seldom has happened thus far this season; he shot 2-of-5 from 3 in the win as Los Angeles gave him plenty of space around the perimeter.

Giddey has to continue to hit at a similar clip from here on out if he wants opposing defenses to start respecting him. If not, his presence on the court can be a real disadvantage for OKC in its half-court sets.


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