Game Grades: OKC Thunder defense takes over in win against Pelicans

The OKC Thunder defense leads the way for a massive win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans / Sean Gardner/GettyImages
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Grading the OKC Thunder starters:

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

After learning Thursday that he would start the All-Star Game in a few weeks, Gilgeous-Alexander showed exactly why.

The guard poured in 31 points for his fifth straight game with 30 or more points, with Oklahoma City winning all of those matchups. But breaking down the Pelicans’ defense was one of his finest performances in that stretch.

But the most important stat of the night may have been that Gilgeous-Alexander finished 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. Including the stepback that capped off his performance, the All-Star’s outside shot is key to his expanding skillset.

His three makes tied a season-high. And considering how great a scorer he already is, an increased volume of 3-pointers could do wonders for his game as the postseason approaches.

Josh Giddey, G, OKC Thunder: B-

Giddey didn’t do a whole lot in New Orleans, but that can be when he is at his best.

No, he’s not the greatest off-ball player and does almost all of his damage with the ball in his hands. Yet, when he can take what the defense gives him, it is perfect for the Thunder, particularly on a night where scoring was not easy to come by.

He also showed his continued improvement as a finisher. Although he missed a floater, his ability to score in traffic has seemed better as of late, particularly when it comes off his cuts.

Lu Dort, F, OKC Thunder: B-

Dort has often struggled to score and put together consistent offensive performances throughout his career, but he is the heart and soul of the Thunder’s defense.

And in a game where New Orleans only put 83 points on the scoreboard, his impact on that end showed up. Dort showed some of that in the opening minutes when he got off the floor to poke away a second-chance opportunity from Jonas Valanciunas.

Jalen Williams, F, OKC Thunder: B+

Another good game for the second-year star came against the Pelicans. With 15 points and seven assists, Williams showed off how well he can create for himself and others.

He wasted no time doing so with an early lob to Chet Holmgren. The rookie would come through for some more of Williams’ assists as the Thunder’s top three players came out focused.

In shooting 7-of-14 from the field, Williams gave a glimpse into how the Thunder run their offense through him. Nine of Williams’ attempts came in the early second and fourth quarters with Gilgeous-Alexander on the bench.

Chet Holmgren, C, OKC Thunder: A-

Holmgren was a true game-changer against the Pelicans and was especially impressive against Jonas Valanciunas. While centers with large frames like Valanciunas have given the rookie problems throughout the season, his matchup went well on Friday.

With 13 rebounds, the Gonzaga product tied his career-high in the category. With his help inside, New Orleans shot just 39% from the floor. Many of those looks came from 3-point range, thanks in part to Holmgren’s presence. He also affected numerous shots and finished with two blocks. 

He also scored 20 points while shooting 9-of-16. His game was just the second of the season with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.