Game Grades: OKC Thunder blown out as defense faulters in Detroit

The OKC Thunder fell to the Pistons in a disappointing game on Sunday afternoon.
Oklahoma City Thunder v Detroit Pistons
Oklahoma City Thunder v Detroit Pistons / Mike Mulholland/GettyImages

The Oklahoma City Thunder came in expecting an easy win but were stunned instead.

To finish a three-game road trip, the Thunder lost 120-104 to the Detroit Pistons. While the game snapped the Thunder’s five-game winning streak, the Pistons secured their sixth win of the season.

The OKC Thunder couldn’t hang with the league-worst Pistons.

For the third time in four seasons, the Thunder’s annual trip to Detroit ended with a loss. However, Sunday’s game was by far the most disappointing of those matchups.

After sprinting out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter, Oklahoma City looked ready to blow the game open. But Detroit never allowed its deficit to balloon past that mark and began to mount a run in the second quarter.

After giving up 83 points to the New Orleans Pelicans last game, the Thunder gave up 70 first-half points to the Pistons, thanks to a 46-point second quarter. That quarter told the story of the game. While the Thunder were scoring plenty, they simply could not get stops.

Although Oklahoma City closed the gap to three points toward the end of the third quarter, Detroit went on a 13-2 run to finish the frame. After Detroit took its second lead in the second quarter, it would never trail again. 

Grading the OKC Thunder starters:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, OKC Thunder: A

The Thunder’s star guard kept the offense flowing in the third quarter as the Pistons looked to gain some separation. With 13 of his 31 points coming in the third, Gilgeous-Alexander made enough plays to keep the scoreboard ticking after Mark Daigneault took out every starter besides him and Lu Dort.

With Oklahoma City struggling defensively, Gilgeous-Alexander’s 13-of-20 performance offensively was desperately needed. While things could have been different if he played in the fourth quarter, it was ultimately the correct decision to let him rest for Monday's matchup of the West’s two best teams.

Josh Giddey, G, OKC Thunder: C-

Giddey struggled throughout the afternoon in Detroit, as did most of the Thunder. The third-year guard scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

Although his stats look rather typical of his games, Giddey had too many ill-advised decisions with the ball in his hands, disrupting the Thunder’s offense. Along with that, he could not defend any of Detroit’s guards, contributing to the poor outing on that end.

Lu Dort, F, OKC Thunder: C-

Outside of an emphatic block on a Bojan Bogdanovic jumper, Dort was not always easy to notice. With Oklahoma City having one of its worst defensive games of the season, some of that has to fall on the team’s anchor on that end.

He did not attempt a shot inside the arc and finished 2-of-5 from deep. The Thunder will need him to keep up that shooting but have a far better defensive performance on Monday against Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Jalen Williams, F, OKC Thunder: C

The second-year star finished with 20 points on 50% shooting, but his -19 plus-minus is just as indicative of how he played. With plenty of good looks, WIlliams struggled to knock down some of his looks that are typically money.

Among those were two free throws early in the fourth quarter as the Thunder looked to make a comeback. 

Chet Holmgren, C, OKC Thunder: D+

Sunday was one of the roughest games of the rookie’s season. Although he had nine points and 12 rebounds, Holmgren failed to control the paint against Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart. 

Almost all of the 7-footer’s production came in the first few minutes. He scored seven of the Thunder’s first 12 points and appeared to be in for a big performance.

Yet, Holmgren shot just 4-of-11, and Oklahoma City was outscored by 20 points in his time on the floor.

Grading the best OKC Thunder reserve:

Keyontae Johnson, F, OKC Thunder: B+

When the Thunder needed a spark coming out of halftime, Daigneault pulled some starters and put one of Oklahoma City’s top G Leaguers on the floor. Johnson made a difference in his seven third-quarter minutes.

With his activity on defense, Johnson showed how his athleticism could aid the Thunder in some situations. He got his first bucket of the day by being at the right place at the right time for an offensive rebound and putback, and he would end with five points.

While it is unlikely that Johnson will have an extensive impact on the Thunder this season, his work with the Blue has shown that he could have a future in the NBA.

Grading the best Piston:

Jalen Duren, C, Detroit Pistons: A+

In a matchup of 2022 lottery picks, Duren dominated the paint against Holmgren. With the first 20-20 game of his career, the Pistons’ big man was a force against the Thunder.

He finished 9-of-13 from the floor, rebounding two of his misses, both leading to Pistons’ buckets. But those were only two of Duren’s nine offensive rebounds to help the Pistons get 19 second-chance points.

With 21 rebounds, the Memphis product set career-highs in total and offensive boards. Meanwhile, he set a third career-high with six assists.

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