The Oklahoma City Thunder finished off their run of scrimmages with an easy 131-120 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers to go 3-0 in the last 5 days. Despite getting down 15-6 early in the first quarter, the Thunder shook off the sloppy start and ran away with it early to get to a comfortable lead and give the second and third unit plenty of run.
Shai is Ready To Take the Keys
Whether we want to admit it or not, Chris Paul’s future with the Thunder is uncertain. His contract is eating up a huge chunk of OKC’s salary, and while he’s been an incredible leader, both on and off the court, who knows if he will be in a Thunder uniform next season.
CP3 sat out tonight’s scrimmage to rest, and if the result was any indication of what the team might look like without him, there’s plenty to be excited about. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s improvements from the 4-month hiatus were on full display, and he showed time and time again that he’s capable of being the floor general.
SGA’s skillset is a unique one, and despite being just a second-year player, his maturity and growth stands out. His decision-making abilities prove that he’s ready to take the keys from Chris Paul, and whether it’s sooner or later doesn’t really matter.
Darius Bazley Deserves a Hand
Thunder rookie Darius Bazley entered the season with a giant question mark on his chest. He hadn’t played competitive basketball in over a year, instead serving as an “intern” for New Balance, so nobody really knew what his potential was except perhaps Thunder GM Sam Presti.
Bazley played varying minutes through the regular season, and he even started a few games, but after suffering a bone bruise in his right knee back in February, he was expected to fall out of the rotation even after he returned.
During the 4-month hiatus, however, Bazley completely healed, and it appears that he also worked on his three-point shot, among other things. Billy Donovan made reference to the fact that he might try to run Bazley at the 5 in smaller lineups, and we saw a little of that on Sunday against the 76ers and even more of it against the Blazers on Tuesday.
With Bazley at the 5, he had the ability to roam the high post and run a number of pick-and-pop plays with Dennis Schröder, which resulted in easy three-point opportunities at the top of the key. He had an impressive scrimmage all-around as he finished with 17 points, 2 assists, a rebound, a steal, and a block, all while not turning the ball over a single time.
I’m not sure just how much he’s going to play, particularly at the 5 spot, but if he manages to find his way onto the floor for more than a few minutes, I’m confident he’s capable of being a playmaker on both ends of the court.
Notes and Highlights
- 7 Thunder players scored in double digits.
- The Thunder shot 20-of-41 (48.8%) from three.
- After turning the ball over 5 times in the first 4 minutes of the game, OKC turned it over just 9 more times the rest of the way for a total of 14.
- The bench tallied 85 points.
- Dennis Schröder and Steven Adams were the only Thunder players to play and not hit a 3 in the game.
Let’s Get This Party Started
The scrimmages are complete, and now the focus turns to the 8 seeding games that will ultimately determine where each team stacks up for the playoffs.
In the Thunder’s first game, they will take on Utah Jazz on Saturday afternoon. The Jazz will have played their first seeding game by then—a Thursday night matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans—but this is the game Thunder fans have been waiting for since that fateful night of March 13th when the NBA came to a halt.
Tip-off is set for 2:30 PM CT, and the game will be aired on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.