The Oklahoma City Thunder (17-15) marched into Toronto and knocked off the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors (22-11) in a 98-97 nail-biter.
No team led by more than 8 points in a game that featured 20 lead changes and 10 ties, but this gritty Thunder squad was able to hold on and will themselves to a win despite plenty of adversity.
Welcome to the Future
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is special, and there’s no denying it. As a rookie with the Los Angeles Clippers last season, he showed a lot of promise, but in his first season in OKC, it’s apparent that his potential could be much more than we realize just yet.
Tonight was another example of Shai’s dynamic abilities, and while fans loved to see him tie his career-high in points with 32 for the 3rd time in 10 days, he’s grown a lot in other areas as well.
After struggling defensively for a lot of the season, Gilgeous-Alexander turned up the pressure tonight as he managed to grab 3 steals. He also grabbed 6 rebounds and handed out 2 assists to round out a solid stat line.
Shai’s ceiling is still undefined, but there is one thing that is pretty clear: SGA is the future for OKC.
Next Man Up
With Danilo Gallinari being forced to sit with a sore left ankle, Darius Bazley has started the last few games in his place, and he’s had varying success. Tonight, however, was one of his best games of the season. Bazley did a little bit of everything as he scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting—all threes—while grabbing 5 rebounds and blocking 2 shots.
Another aspect of his game that cannot go unnoticed is his defense. While it doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet, Bazley has solid footwork on the defensive end, and he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
As soon as Gallinari is healthy and able to play again, Bazley will go back to the bench, and his minutes will be reduced once again, but performances like tonight are ones that Bazley will remember and be able to build upon moving forward.
NYE in OKC
The Thunder is headed home for a New Year’s Eve matchup in OKC with the Dallas Mavericks. Luka Doncic made his return against the Spurs on Thursday after missing four games with a sprained ankle, so he will be ready to go in what should make for an exciting game to wrap up 2019.
Tip-off for the game is at 7 PM, and it be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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