Game Grades: Big nights from SGA, Jalen Williams not enough to complete comeback against Lakers

The OKC Thunder fall short against the L.A. Lakers in a must-win game for the Purple and Gold.

Dec 23, 2023; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) drives
Dec 23, 2023; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) drives / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
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Grading the OKC Thunder starters:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, OKC Thunder: A-

The Thunder’s star nearly led them back from the dead, but not even the MVP candidate could do enough.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s night ended with 34 points, Div rebounds and seven assists. And, of course, he also had three steals.

While it was a good scoring night and he shot 12-of-21 from the field, those numbers easily could have been better. He missed a few wide-open looks that are typically cash for him, and those misses helped the Lakers blow the game open.

A slightly crisper game from Gilgeous-Alexander could have given him another MVP-like performance and a win.

Cason Wallace, G, OKC Thunder: C+

While it was no fault of his own, this was not the best matchup for Wallace to get a start.

His size matched up better with the Lakers’ bench unit, and he did not get much going against the big starting five that Darvin Ham threw out. Still, he put five points and four assists.

He also poked the ball away from Austin Reaves in the first quarter, leading to free throws in transition.

Lu Dort, F, OKC Thunder: C

The fifth-year wing tried his best to be a positive for the Thunder, but things did not go his way against the Lakers.

Things particularly did not go his way against LeBron James, who dropped 40 on Dort and the Thunder. While playing arguably the greatest player of all time is no easy task, Dort often struggled to stay in front of him or ceded switches a bit too easily.

On the other side, Dort struggled to make up for it. He scored eight points, shooting just 3-of-9 from the floor.

Jalen Williams, F, OKC Thunder: A

Missing some open threes in the fourth quarter is the only thing preventing Williams from an A+.

Those shots could have pulled the Thunder within single digits midway through the fourth, but it was not meant to be. Although, that didn’t really stop Williams from nailing some wild shots to beat the buzzer.

He ended the first quarter with a baseline fadeaway and followed that up with a leaning elbow jumper to beat the shot clock early in the second quarter. Those makes and an inspired fourth quarter helped Williams put up 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting.

While he couldn’t bring the Thunder back for a win, without his impact, they may not have been within striking distance at any point. After turning his ankle last game and getting banged up again early in the fourth quarter Saturday, a couple of off days over Christmas is a welcome sight for the young star.

Chet Holmgren, C, OKC Thunder: B

Considering how he’s played this season, it can be difficult to remember this guy is still a rookie.

But some of that inexperience showed against Anthony Davis and the Lakers. Taking on one of the best bigs in the league was just a bit too much for the Thunder’s 7-footer to handle.

Holmgren still put up 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Like others on Oklahoma City, he missed some open looks from outside and never got into a rhythm.

His scoring accumulated pretty evenly throughout the game, but he added eight in the fourth as the Thunder tried to make a furious comeback. And like most shot blockers dream of, he sent back a shot from LeBron James at the rim.