Player Grades: Thunder beat Cavs in back-and-forth battle

OKC Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) walks down the court : Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
OKC Thunder guard Josh Giddey (3) walks down the court : Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

After being snubbed from the All-Star game starting lineup, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander responded with a huge 35-point performance. What started as a game of runs became a game dominated by OKC in the second half, as they pulled away to win 112-100.

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-100 behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s 35 points.

The first quarter was defined by momentum. Oklahoma City opened up with a 12-4 run, but Cleveland countered with a run of their own, scoring 10 straight points. The back-and-forth basketball was consistent throughout the first frame.

Gilgeous-Alexander attacked the rim and finished through contact for an and-1. However, Evan Mobley and Darius Garland countered with two and-1 finishes of their own. Mobley and Jarrett Allen were getting easy looks at the basket for most of the night, as the Thunder were outmatched in size.

However, the Cavs struggled to get their outside shots to fall. They started the game just 0-11 from three while the Thunder knocked down most of its attempts from downtown. OKC finished the game shooting 10-18 from three.

In the second quarter, the offense struggled to score without Gilgeous-Alexander on the floor. Through the first six minutes of the second quarter, the Thunder scored just five points as a team. Cleveland did a good job in the first half countering OKC’s fast style of play by slowing the game down and going at their own tempo.

Oklahoma City would enter the second half down seven points to the Donovan Mitchell-less Cavaliers, despite SGA’s 21-point first half. But the game was all Thunder from there on out.

Shai hit the 30-point mark in the third quarter when he tied the game at 78 a piece. The Thunder outscored the Cavs in the third quarter 31-24 and the game was neck-and-neck headed to the fourth.

Cleveland is one of, if not, the best fourth-quarter team in all of basketball. However, the Thunder were on a roll. OKC went on a 12-0 run and could not be stopped. The Thunder dropped 34 points in the last frame with huge help from Jalen Williams’ back-to-back triples and Kenrich Williams’ three to extend the lead to 13 points. A lead the Cavs would not come back from.

149. Final. 100. 156. 112

After a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, this game was a huge bounce-back win for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Although he wasn’t announced as an All-Star starter, Gilgeous-Alexander is back to his 30-point scoring ways.

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

For Gilgeous-Alexander, 35-point games are becoming casual. He did a great job getting to his mid-range spots and getting open looks. Even when his defender got a good contest, SGA was still converting. An insanely efficient night for Shai, shooting 12-of-21 from the field and making his only three-point attempt, which happened to be a step-back buzzer beater to end the first half. SGA is well on his way to an All-NBA season.

. G. Oklahoma City Thunder. JOSH GIDDEY. B

In the first half, Giddey was not playing aggressively, which led to him passing up open looks and turning the ball over trying to force passes. However, he eventually turned it around and started looking for his own looks. Giddey attacked the rim with a flurry of floaters, which he’s gotten very good at doing, and finished the night with 15 points and six rebounds on 50 percent from the field.

. G/F. Oklahoma City Thunder. AARON WIGGINS. B

The Oklahoma City Thunder have an 8-0 record when Aaron Wiggins starts. Why is that? Because Wiggins plays winning basketball. He does all the little things OKC needs and tonight it was timely cuts, and surprisingly, post-defense. Wiggs did a great job denying the Cavs’ big-men the basketball on the low block, recording two steals by doing so.

A-. . F. Oklahoma City Thunder. JALEN WILLIAMS

I refuse to believe Jalen Williams is a rookie. He dropped 17 points and was a perfect 3-for-3 from three and an overall 7-of-12 from the field, including an emphatic poster jam over two defenders. Players don’t just come into the league and have great efficiency numbers. J-Dub is truly 1-of-1.

B-. . F/C. Oklahoma City Thunder. JAYLIN WILLIAMS

Jaylin Williams continues to impress in his first season. He was a perfect 2-for-2 from deep in this game and even had a nice pick-and-pop mid-range jumper. With all of the frontcourt injuries for OKC this season, J-Will has been a nice surprise, as he’s taken those minutes and done really well.

B. . F. Oklahoma City Thunder. KENRICH WILLIAMS

Kenrich Williams is a winning basketball player, no doubt about it. He was all over the floor, specifically in the fourth quarter. Kenny hauled in three offensive rebounds and knocked down the dagger three to seal the deal for the Thunder. Leave it to Kenny Hustle to do the dirty work.

F/C. Oklahoma City Thunder. EVAN MOBLEY. A.

Evan Mobley was 2-for-2 from three in this game. Mobley has just 10 three-pointers made on the season and four of them have come against the Thunder. He abused the lack of size in the paint and even showed off his mid-range ability. He ended with 23 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland.

The Oklahoma City Thunder round out the home stretch against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday as they look to string together another win streak.

Next. Gilgeous-Alexander All-Star starting shaft highlights the need to change voting process. dark