Rookies Shine in OKC Thunder’s Drubbing of Spurs
Jalen Williams racked up a double–double, Ousmane Dieng dropped a career-high, and Jaylin Williams displayed staunch defense as the OKC Thunder dispatched the San Antonio Spurs, 102-90, on Sunday night to boost play-in hopes.
This year’s 12th overall pick Jalen Williams tallied 21 points and 10 assists to lead the way for the Thunder, who missed All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the game due to injury management.
OKC Thunder rookies thrive as the Thunder take care of business against the Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back.
“It’s good to win when Shai doesn’t play as well,” Williams said as the Thunder, at 33-35, is now on a four-way for play-in seeds nine and ten together with the Lakers, Pelicans, and the Jazz.
“Just kind of lets us know that we are doing the right things and playing hard in that way. I think we’re doing a good job kind of staying together. I think that’s been our biggest thing through the ups and downs,” Williams added.
Ousmane Dieng, who was the 11th pick, chipped in 17 points, including six points in OKC’s 14-0 attack in the first half that pulled them away in the game. He also grabbed another career-best in rebounds with eight in his 28 minutes of play.
The 19-year-old has been gaining the trust of head coach Mark Daigneault recently, clocking 20 minutes or more in five of his last seven games. Prior to that, he was only averaging 14 minutes per outing in his first 18 games as he dealt with injuries alongside being recalled in the G-League.
Jalen Williams, on the other hand, continued his upward trajectory. The game was his sixth 20-point game in the last eight as he is now averaging 23 points, five rebounds, and five assists this month.
If it is to be stretched back to his last 13 games, Jalen Williams was still norming the same averages but on an astounding 56/47/86 shooting splits on an equally impressive 65.7 true shooting percentage.
Meanwhile, Jaylin, the other Williams from Arkansas, carried on his defensive masterclass with four steals against the Spurs alongside nine points, five rebounds, and one block.
Jaylin Williams had also forced a total of seven turnovers in the victory as his defense remains a beam of brilliance. Jaylin Williams is ranked in the 73rd percentile when defending the pick-and-roll, just allowing 0.87 points per possession in the season.
Josh Giddey added 15 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists for the Thunder, while Lu Dort and Dario Saric recorded 12 and 10 points, respectively.
It was the second leg of a rough back-to-back for the OKC Thunder, winning in New Orleans just about 23 hours before this game’s tip-off.
“Tough back-to-back with tough travel, short turnaround, finished late last night, lost an hour sleep, played at 6 o’clock. I thought just our readiness compared to earlier in the week in Phoenix, we brought the fight to the game and set a good tone early,” said coach Daigneault.
Additionally, the victory was the Thunder’s first inside AT&T Center since March 4, 2021, a little over two years ago.