Shai Gilgeous-Alexander torched the Cleveland Cavaliers en route to sweeping the season series.
The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Cavaliers 128-120 on Wednesday with a big game from their superstar. Gilgeous-Alexander finished the night just shy of his career-high with a season-high 43 points.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dominates the Cavaliers in OKC’s second-straight win.
Gilgeous-Alexander made his mark early and never let up against Cleveland. The star guard scored 15 points in the first quarter, playing his usual 12 minutes.
Of his seven first-quarter shot attempts, all came in the paint. That helped Gilgeous-Alexander get to the line three times in the first quarter, an area he had struggled with in the first couple of weeks.
Gilgeous-Alexander entered halftime with 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting. He did not cool off after the intermission.
In the third quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander surpassed his season-high of 34 points, which he scored in the first matchup against the Cavaliers. That first game was a battle of elite scorers that saw Donovan Mitchell score 43, but Lu Dort helped hold the Cavaliers’ star to 20 points on 8-of-23 shooting.
Gilgeous-Alexander scored 15 points in the third quarter, including a 7-of-8 performance from the free-throw line. Those trips to the line gave Gilgeous-Alexander season-highs in free-throw makes and attempts.
Near the end of the third quarter, Cleveland began aggressively double-teaming Gilgeous-Alexander when he tried to make his moves. After his fourth-quarter rest, Cleveland continued that strategy once Gilgeous-Alexander reentered the game.
The Cavaliers’ defensive strategy slowed Gilgeous-Alexander in the final frame, holding him to five points. But his only field goal, a 3-pointer with four minutes left, propelled him over 40 points and pushed the Thunder’s lead up to nine.
While Gilgeous-Alexander spent much of the game getting any shot he wanted, he affected the game in other facets. In addition to his 15-of-22 shooting night, he added seven rebounds and six assists.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s lone block defensively came against Caris LeVert to save two points in transition. He also helped Oklahoma City forced 18 turnovers by pitching in a game-high three steals.
Wednesday’s game was the first where Gilgeous-Alexander imposed his will at the level he did last season. If the Thunder’s star can help them build on a 5-3 record with more performances like this one, he may find himself in MVP contention.
The Thunder will head on the road to face the Sacramento Kings on Friday in their second In-Season Tournament game.