OKC Thunder earn massive win over Jazz behind young trio

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

The Oklahoma City Thunder hosted the Utah Jazz for a baseball-style series in the Paycom Center on Friday and Sunday nights. The OKC Thunder earned two massive wins over the Jazz.

On Sunday, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander returned from injury, Josh Giddey continued to thrive, and Jalen Williams flashed his incredible potential.

The OKC Thunder earn massive wins over the Utah Jazz, as the young core dominates for Oklahoma City.

Returning from a left hip flexor strain and the health and safety protocols, Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 38 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 17-of-19 from the free-throw line. He made the first shot of the game, and was on his usual All-Star gear the rest of the way.

SGA zoomed to a strong start, scoring 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first quarter to open up a 15-point cushion after the first 12 minutes. From thereon, everything just clicked for the Thunder with the other guys following suit.

“All year, we’ve been talking about coming out fast,” Williams told the media. “I thought we did a good job of that. Obviously, with Shai coming back, we were all playing in our normal spots, too, so there was a lot more comfortable feel.”

Williams, who will only turn 22 next month, put up a career-high of 32 points, on an insanely efficient 12-of-15 field goal clip, alongside five rebounds, five assists, and a couple of steals and blocks.

Giddey, on the other hand, dropped 24 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists on 4-of-6 shooting from the three-point range.

“I think the three of us are just getting better, for sure,” said Gilgeous-Alexander on him, Giddey, and Williams. “Obviously, the three of us are a big part of the future here and the better we can get at that and the faster we can get better at that, the better our team (will be) moving forward.”

Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey both recorded a 75% true shooting percentage while J-Dub had a much impressive 90.7 true shooting rate, attesting to how splendid the team looked offensively in the game.

SGA, 24, particularly was aggressive throughout, challenging defenders who dared to stop his strides to the rim as if he was shot out of a cannon. Gilgeous-Alexander tied his career-high attempts from the free-throw line with 19. For context, the rest of the team only shot 14 from the charity stripe.

Giddey, meanwhile, had a steady showing. He punished the Jazz defense with two threes early in the first half to open up the court for him. The 20-year-old Aussie then engineered offense for the team by manipulating defenses through his passing to stamp his typical mark in the game as the offense ran through for a good chunk of the second half.

Williams though was on a different tear on offense. He rarely forced shots in the rim, and opted to take quality looks from his drives and inside maneuvers. J-Dub also made four threes on just five attempts — one of his best shooting performances as he is only shooting 33.5% from deep this season.

“He played with a lot of confidence,” said head coach Mark Daigneault on Williams’ performance. “I thought him, and Shai, and Josh had good individual nights offensively,”

“But I thought the whole was better than some parts, which is good to see.”

OKC Thunder bench boss Mark Daigneault also mentioned the continuous development of his players — not just the nucleus of SGA, Giddey, and J-Dub, but also the rest of the team.

“We are not just trying to develop young players in a silo, we want to develop a team, and they played as a team tonight on offense.”

The OKC Thunder are in the thick of the play-in race with a tough back to back on the horizon, first at home against the Warriors on Tuesday, then the Thunder go west to face the Suns on Wednesday.

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