Grading the OKC Thunder starters:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, OKC Thunder: A
Oklahoma City's star guard was the team’s only source of consistent offense for much of the night. Thanks to Gilgeous-Alexander, Sacramento was never able to pull away.
His clearest impact came from the foul line, a place he has mastered getting to. Gilgeous-Alexander finished 16-of-18 on free throws as he attacked the paint relentlessly. In doing so, he scored 43 to end a point away from his career-high of 44.
He continued applying pressure on the Kings’ defense late in the second half, but it was not enough for the Thunder to come out with a win. While big games are expected from superstars, winning is difficult when those players have to take 27 shots and 18 free throws.
In basically every way, Gilgeous-Alexander was the source of the Thunder’s offense, adding a game-high nine assists.
Josh Giddey, G, OKC Thunder: A-
As has been a tradition in recent weeks, Giddey received boos from the Sacramento crowd each time he touched the ball. While it may not have affected him, it did not help the third-year guard’s performance, at least in the first half.
Giddey’s third-quarter outburst helped the Thunder’s offense get into a rhythm early and erase the Kings’ halftime lead. After scoring just two points in the first half, Giddey came out firing in the third, drilling a couple of 3-pointers and getting a couple of buckets inside.
He continued that into the fourth quarter with a layup and long two-pointer, getting the Thunder within two points with three minutes remaining. While he finished with only two assists, if Giddey can consistently score at that level, his playmaking issues can be an afterthought.
The Australian was also a significant contributor to keeping the rebounding battle tight, finishing second on the Thunder with eight.
Lu Dort, F, OKC Thunder: C+
Dort’s night shifted in the fourth quarter as he nailed a couple of big 3-pointers to keep the Kings from pulling away. He finished with 17 points, nailing three of his five looks overall from deep.
His aggressiveness and hustle on defense and rebounding opportunities also helped the Thunder stay within striking distance throughout the night. However, his efforts were not enough, as De’Aaron Fox got mostly what he wanted.
Still, with a couple of steals and a block, Dort had a solid outing.
Jalen Williams, F, OKC Thunder: D
After a stretch of good games, Williams struggled mightily in Sacramento. The second-year forward could not buy a bucket, shooting only 2-of-14 from the floor. With only five points, Williams had his lowest-scoring game of the season and failed to reach 10 points for the first time.
He forced up some shots in the closing minutes but could not get any to fall when the Thunder needed his shot-making most. But his late putback did bring the Thunder within six with 4:22 left.
Williams was also relatively quiet outside of his shooting struggles, adding four rebounds and three assists. Despite his offensive issues, he remained engaged defensively with a steal and a block.
Chet Holmgren, C, OKC Thunder: C-
Holmgren’s night was quiet until he came through in the final few minutes. Originally called a foul before a challenge overturned it, Holmgren’s block on Domantas Sabonis with the Thunder down two gave them a golden opportunity.
On the next possession, Holmgren had a wide-open 3-point shot but could not connect. He had another look with Oklahoma City trailing by four, but it was also no good.
Holmgren’s night finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but his five fouls limited him throughout the night. He also struggled to match up with Sabonis’ size.
Although the rookie played a significant role in the Thunder’s comeback effort, Holmgren’s inability to make any real impact until the fourth quarter cost the Thunder dearly.