Thunder comeback falls short against the defending champs

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder kept throwing punches, but Golden State answered every time.

After trailing by as much as 21, the Thunder got back within two points multiple times before the Warriors pulled away. Jalen Williams hit a layup with just over four minutes to go and made it 109-107.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drove inside and hoped to tie the game but could not finish through contact. No foul was called, and the Warriors raced down the floor to get a wide-open look in the corner for Jordan Poole, which he nailed. A couple of possessions later, Stephen Curry triggered a Thunder timeout with his eighth three to put Golden State up eight.

The OKC Thunder fall short against the fully healthy Golden State Warriors

From there, the Thunder and Warriors traded baskets, and OKC did its best to get back even, but Golden State continued hitting shots and put the game away. It felt like each time the Thunder had a chance to get back in it, Klay Thompson had a bucket to end that thought.

OKC Thunder trailed by 15 at halftime, and Golden State quickly added to that lead in the third quarter. The Thunder rallied and turned the game into a track meet. The entertaining third quarter ended with a Curry three over Kenrich Williams before Mike Muscala swished a buzzer-beating three to answer and move OKC within single digits.

Even with the comeback, Golden State seemed in control for the entire game and made it feel like business as usual when things got tough. On the other side, OKC played some of its worst basketball of the month in the first half. The Thunder played like the young team they are and struggled against the veteran savvy of Golden State throughout.

Grading the Thunder starters:

SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER. B+. . Guard. Oklahoma City Thunder

Another game, another 30-piece. Gilgeous-Alexander’s night did not start great, however. SGA shot only 30% in the first half to get to 10 points, with the Thunder trailing big.

Thankfully for the Thunder, he flipped the switch in the second half and scored 21 points on 50% shooting. The Warriors were still able to keep his damage minimal in the fourth quarter as he could not produce some of the clutch magic the Thunder have been accustomed to this season. Gilgeous-Alexander continued his outstanding season blocking shots by sending back three against Golden State.

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

Throughout this season, Josh Giddey has shown immense growth when it comes to scoring. Against the Warriors, he put that improvement to use to help OKC have a chance in the fourth quarter. Giddey scored 12 of his 21 points in the final period and showed flashes of being an elite scorer.

Giddey pulled out a variety of moves to get buckets in the fourth quarter. He had a nice stepback jumper over Curry, drilled a big putback three and even nailed a one-legged fadeaway on the baseline. His only issue offensively was taking care of the ball. Giddey had five turnovers, including two in the middle of the fourth, as OKC tried to get all the way back.

. Forward. Oklahoma City Thunder. JALEN WILLIAMS. A

It is getting challenging to grade Jalen Williams. He continues raising expectations but has had no problem meeting them. Williams’ scoring punch gave OKC a much-needed boost tonight as he added 19 points.

Williams had eight makes in the game. Seven were right at the rim. He loves to attack the rim, putting the Thunder in a great position to rally as he scored 11 in the fourth quarter. He nailed both of OKC’s shots that got the Thunder to within two points. Williams’s versatility as a defender showed again, finishing with a block and a steal.

Oklahoma City Thunder. AARON WIGGINS. C. . Forward

The magic is over. OKC is no longer undefeated when Aaron Wiggins starts this season. But maybe this game should get a pass considering the Warriors also have a Wiggins.

This just looked like a game where Wiggins was a bit outmatched. He played fine but could not provide what OKC usually gets from him in his starts. Wiggins finished with just three points, nailing his sole attempt from deep.

. Forward. Oklahoma City Thunder. KENRICH WILLIAMS. B-

When the Thunder go small, it typically pits Kenrich Williams against a seven-footer. But Warriors coach Steve Kerr opted to go small as well, starting Draymond Green at center. It caused some problems for OKC since Golden State was just as switchable to start the game.

Nonetheless, Williams wasted no time getting some shots up by taking four in the game’s first three minutes. His effort was just as good as usual on defense, coming up with three steals. Unfortunately, he had a costly turnover trying to throw an outlet pass to Jalen Williams with a chance to get the Thunder back within one possession.

Best off the bench:

B+. . Forward. Oklahoma City Thunder. JAYLIN WILLIAMS

Jaylin Williams is quickly staking his claim as a OKC Thunder fan favorite. He showed why on Monday night by providing much-needed energy and enthusiasm to get OKC some momentum. Williams impressed in his nearly 18 minutes of action.

His scoring continues to get better as he improves as a long-range shooter. Williams scored 12 points against the Warriors while hitting two of his three shots from beyond the arc. Despite playing just over a third of the game, Williams was tied for the Thunder’s lead in rebounds with eight.

Warriors’ top performer:

A. . Guard. Golden State Warriors. STEPHEN CURRY

This was far from the first time Stephen Curry had put on a show in Oklahoma City. Curry’s excellent performance left him just two rebounds shy of a triple-double. While Curry impacted the game with 12 assists and eight rebounds to get there, he’s known as the greatest shooter ever for a reason.

Curry tied his season-high in makes from beyond the arc with eight. Many of them came from an extra step or two behind the line. His most impressive was a 28-foot side-step three over Kenrich Williams to end the third, reminiscent of some shots from his February 2016 trip to OKC.

Closing thoughts:

It hurts to lose after making a comeback like the OKC Thunder did, especially to an opponent so close in the standings. Despite their struggles this season, the Warriors are still the reigning champions and made sure the Thunder knew that early. To be the best, the Thunder will have to beat the best, and this Warriors game served as a solid measuring stick for where OKC is at.

OKC Thunder dropped to 24-26 but will have its best chance to get to .500 to start February by playing a home-and-home against the last-place Rockets. If the Thunder takes care of business against Houston, they will get a shot at revenge against the Warriors right after as they start a west-coast road trip.

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