Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plays 37 minutes in return, what changed?

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

On Sunday, the Oklahoma City Thunder saw Shai Gilgeous-Alexander clear health and safety protocols to return to the hardwood against the Utah Jazz in the Paycom Center. This was Gilgeous-Alexander’s first game back at home since playing in his first NBA All-Star game in Salt Lake City last month.

Before the game, OKC Thunder bench boss Mark Daigneault explained how Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would see a change in his normal rotational patterns and how the Thunder will manage his injury down the stretch of this season. However, SGA still played in 37 minutes, so what changed?

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dominates in his return, dropping 38 points in 37 minutes, but what changed about his role?

When you look at the box score for the max contract point guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander seemed to have a standard night. He turned in double-digit points in the first and third frames, with 37 minutes played, which is actually above his nightly average.

So what changed? As the Thunder head man explained, it was simply the rotation, not necessarily the accumulation of minutes.

It was about leaving the first quarter with two minutes left when he usually plays the entire frame. In the third quarter, he left with 54 ticks on the clock, but I wonder if he would have exited at the two-minute mark in the third had he not been the free-throw shooter. Avoiding those long stretches of minutes was key to managing that abdominal injury.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dominated with 38 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals, and a block while shooting 58 percent from the floor, 50 percent from three, and 17-for-19 at the free throw line.

SGA was a plus-five in this contest, in which the Thunder led wire-to-wire and once swelled their lead to 24 on their way to earning another massive win over the Jazz. This win moves them to a half-game out of the play-in tournament and a game back from hosting a play-in game as the ninth seed.

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