Grading Thunder Players After Tuesday’s Win Against the Spurs

Jalen Williams #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Jalen Williams #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

The Thunder defeated the Spurs 130-114 on Tuesday night in downtown OKC to wrap up a seven-game homestead. The final score made the game appear more lopsided than it actually was. The Thunder were ahead by ten after a first half where they scored 70 points on 54 percent shooting from the field and 64 percent from behind the arc.

The third quarter was a different story, which is surprising given OKC’s reputation as one of the top third-quarter teams in the entire league. San Antonio outscored the Thunder 33-25 in the third, cutting the deficit down to two heading into the final 12 minutes. Still, the Thunder were not about to let this game get away. They began the fourth on a 14-3 run and outscored the Spurs by 14 points in the final frame to seal the victory. Tre Mann scored 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, and Jalen Williams added 9 of his 15, along with three assists and a steal.

The Spurs packed the paint for much of the game, but Oklahoma City was able to adjust well. The Thunder are an average three-point shooting team on the year, but they made 13 of 24 three-point attempts on Tuesday night. Tre Mann and Mike Muscala led the way with three made three-pointers each, while seven other players made one three-pointer of their own. The only two Thunder players who didn’t register a made three-point attempt were Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams, who found plenty of other ways to contribute to the victory.

149. Final. 114. 29. 130

Coming up we’ll take a deeper look at the performance of each Thunder starter during Tuesday’s game.

Thunder Starting Lineup Grades

LU DORT. C+. . SG. Oklahoma City Thunder

This wasn’t Lu Dort’s best offensive game. He was able to get to the rim a few times for easy buckets, but he made just one of four three-point attempts while accounting for only one assist throughout the night. He played eight minutes during the second half and didn’t see the court after the 4:08 mark of the third quarter. Coach Daigneault admitted after the game that Dort was feeling slightly under the weather last night, so perhaps this affected his shooting performance. A bright spot in Dort’s game was a second-quarter possession on defense where he locked down Jakob Poeltl and denied multiple passes before snagging a defensive rebound.

A-. . PG. Oklahoma City Thunder. JOSH GIDDEY

Like Dort, Giddey didn’t have the best shooting night. He made his only three-point attempt, but he shot 3-11 from the field. Still, Giddey found several ways to impact the game. He finished with seven rebounds, eight assists, one steal, and one block. He had many other spectacular passes that won’t show up in the box score because they didn’t immediately lead to shots but were impressive regardless. During the first quarter of Tuesday’s game, Giddey became the second youngest player in NBA history to accrue 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists for their career. Only LeBron James reached this milestone at a younger age than Giddey. Not bad for a 20-year-old who has only played in 83 career NBA games.

A. . F. Oklahoma City Thunder. ALEKSEJ POKUSEVSKI

Unfortunately, Poku’s night was cut short after falling awkwardly on his left leg less than two minutes into the game while going up for a rebound. After staying on the ground for a few minutes, he was helped back to the locker room by Jaylin Williams and a Thunder assistant while putting minimal weight on his left leg. He was later ruled out for the game with what the Thunder called a “left leg” injury. Coach Daigneault didn’t have an update on Poku’s status after the game, but he said the team should know more in the coming days. In the meantime, Thunder fans hope for the best for the third-year wing who has made a significant positive impact on the team so far this season. Poku finished the night with three points (a made three-pointer), one rebound, and one block.

. G/F. Oklahoma City Thunder. JALEN WILLIAMS. A

This a quick reminder that Jalen Williams is a rookie. It has to be said because it’s easy to forget when you watch him play. On a night when he received the October/November Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award in a brief on-court ceremony before the game, J-Dub played 31 minutes and scored 15 points to go with nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and one steal. His two blocks actually came on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter, and his second block went multiple rows back into the stands. Jalen himself was blocked on back-to-back possessions by Jakob Poeltl and Jeremy Sochan in the first quarter, but quickly brushed it off and made six of his final nine field goal attempts. J-Dub has started eight straight games and has only played less than 27 minutes once during the month of December. Look for these types of performances to continue.

A. . G. Oklahoma City Thunder. SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER

It’s funny when a 28-point performance feels like a “quiet” showing, but that’s what happens when you’re third in the league in scoring and averaging nearly 32 points per game like SGA is currently doing. SGA didn’t have to do it all during Tuesday’s game, so he simply did what he does best. He made 9 of his 14 field goal attempts and went 10-11 from the line to go with six rebounds and eight assists. He was a menace on defense as well, with two steals and four blocks. He’s now averaging just over one block per game and nearly two steals per game, which puts him in a three-way tie with Luka Doncic and Tyrese Haliburton for fifth in the league in steals per game.

Up next we’ll highlight the Thunder’s key bench contributor as well as the top performer from San Antonio.

Best Thunder Bench Performance

A+. . F/C. Oklahoma City Thunder. MIKE MUSCALA

With the injuries to Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Ousmane Dieng, and Aleksej Pokusevski, the Thunder called Mike Muscala’s number on Tuesday night and he responded in a big way. Muscala played more minutes (21) than he’s played during any game this season. He registered his season high in points (19) on 5-8 shooting. He drained three of his five three-point attempts to go with six rebounds, two assists, one block, and one steal. His game score of 20.7 is six points higher than what he’s produced in any other game this season, and his plus/minus (16) was the highest of any Thunder player during Tuesday’s game. Muscala may see increased minutes if Poku is forced to miss significant time, and Thunder fans should feel confident about the level that he can produce.

Best Opponent Performance

JEREMY SOCHAN. B+. . F. San Antonio Spurs

Sochan made his presence felt during Tuesday’s game, and not only when he was shooting his one-handed free throws. He played 30 minutes and nearly registered a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. He also assisted on four made baskets and produced two blocks and one steal on the defensive end. The ninth overall pick from last year’s draft is averaging nine points and five rebounds through his first 28 career games (including 25 starts). The Thunder didn’t have a chance to draft Sochan with the 11th or 12th picks, but it’s safe to assume they are happy with the talent they have.

Wrapping Up

The Thunder will head out on the road to take on the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night at 6 pm central. The Hornets come into the game with a 9-26 record after losing to the Warriors on Tuesday night in San Francisco. OKC will return home on Saturday to continue their annual tradition of a home game on New Year’s Eve when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers at 7 pm.

Next. A cautionary tale for OKC Thunder fans. dark