The Oklahoma City Thunder was absolutely embarrassed at home Saturday afternoon as the New York Knicks took them to the cleaners. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley both sat with minor injuries, but losing by 22 points to a .500 team at home is rarely acceptable. Sunday afternoon’s home tilt against the Memphis Grizzlies was similar in some ways, but very different in the outcome.
SGA was the only normal starter to play in the game as the rest of his lineup colleagues were sidelined for various reasons. Joining him on the court was Aleksej Pokuševski, Ty Jerome, Justin Jackson, and Moses Brown. This was the first career start for both Ty Jerome and Moses Brown and just the third career start for Poku. Coming into this one, not very many people gave the Thunder a chance to win, let alone compete.
Still, as has been the case time and time again, the young guns of the Oklahoma City Thunder came out firing on all cylinders, and whether shots are falling or not, the energy is always there. Fortunately for OKC, shots were falling left and right when it really counted, and despite trailing for a chunk of the game, the Thunder was able to overcome a 10-point deficit heading into the final period to end up on top 128-122.
Poku is Young, But Who Cares?
Aleksej Pokuševski is almost as hard to pronounce as it is to spell, but by now, everybody knows who Poku is. Barely 19 years old, he’s one of the youngest players ever to don the Thunder uniform, and from Day 1, he has been a guy not afraid to take shots. That mentality, coupled with his hard work and desire to improve, led to a career performance against the Grizzlies as he became the youngest Thunder player ever to score at least 20 points in a game.
Pokuševski was on fire from downtown, knocking down 5-of-8 (62.5%) threes, and he ended the day with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, a block, and just a single turnover in a game-high 39 minutes. He’s the youngest player in NBA history to ever put up such numbers in an NBA game.
Prior to heading to the G League, Pokuševski looked like a draft bust, but I think at this point it’s safe to say we should give the man a chance. He’s barely played half a season in the NBA, but based on how he’s performed since joining the starting lineup, he has a lot of potential to grow into a quality playmaker.
Shay Stays Steady
The Thunder has had to play a few games—7 to be exact—without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander this season, and they haven’t played that well without him. Going just 2-5 in those situations, it’s obvious that SGA is the leader of this team. Today, he was the only regular starter to play the game, and he took it in stride and performed like he usually does by being exactly what his team needed him to be in a given moment.
In his 34 minutes on the floor, Shai managed to score 30 points for the 9th time this season. He was right there with Poku knocking down shots from three as he made 4-of-6 (66.7%) threes, and he was also 10-of-11 (90.9%) from the free throw line. Add 5 assists and 4 rebounds to his stat line, and it was just another day at the office for Mr. Gilgeous-Alexander.
Thunder Unsung Hero of the Game
Kenrich Williams, or “Kenny Hustle” as he has been dubbed on social media, is a constant spark that shows up whenever he’s called upon. He’s been featured in the starting lineup a few times this season, but even with 4 regular starters out, he came off the bench in Sunday’s game with Memphis. He managed 26 minutes of play, though, and he made every single one of them count.
Williams’s 17 points led the Thunder bench, and he got there by knocking down 7-of-8 (87.5%) field goal attempts. He also grabbed 4 rebounds and handed out 3 assists to round out a solid afternoon.
At 26 years old, Kenrich Williams is one of the older 3rd-year players in the NBA, but regardless of the role he’s asked to play, he fills it accordingly without complaint.
Back on the Road
The Thunder heads out on the road now for a 4-game road trip that begins on Tuesday night in Chicago against the Bulls. The Thunder managed a 127-125 overtime victory against the Bulls in OKC just two months ago, and since then, Chicago has won exactly half of their games played to move to 16-20 on the season. The Bulls are hoping to make a push for the playoffs, and if they can stay healthy, they might be able to pull it off.
Tip-off for that game is scheduled for 7 PM, and it will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.