If this was the last game played together with this group as we see it on February 5, 2020, then this was the perfect send off.
The Thunder defeated the Cavaliers at home, 109-103, winning another close game despite looking disinterested and sloppy all game long. The poor play could be explained for multiple reasons such as the four-day layoff and the trade deadline being tomorrow. Throughout this game, OKC looked like a team that knows that this was probably the last game with this group of guys. They gave up a ton of fast break points off of full court passes and giving up a ton of open looks from three, where the Cavs went 15-38 (39.5%). The Cavs had six players in double digits with 31 team assists and was scoring early in the shot clock, getting good look after good look. The Thunder couldn’t deliver the knock out blow to the Cavs, and it felt like they were going to eventually out work OKC and steal this game.
But nope, instead the guys who have been in trade rumors all week long were actually the ones that stepped up to win this game. Dennis Schroder added to his 6MOTY campaign by scoring a game high 30 points on 10-17 shooting with six assists and five rebounds. Schroder stepped up huge in a close fourth quarter by scoring 10 points. This was Schroder’s seventh straight game scoring 20+ points off the bench, the longest streak in the NBA this season. It was reportedly earlier today by ESPN that the Thunder are looking for a hefty return for Schroder and they are completely justified having those expectations. Schroder is having a career season and his value is at an all time high right now, he is also under contract for next season on a reasonable salary so the Thunder don’t have to rush themselves into dealing him by tomorrow.
The name that came up the most tonight in trade talks with Danilo Gallinari. It was reported by ESPN just before tip off that the Heat and Thunder were having ongoing discussions involving Gallinari. Alas, nothing materialized during the game and Gallinari played the entire game, scoring 15 points on 5-11 shooting in 31 minutes. Fans were on Gallinari-watch all game long just to see if he was going to be pulled from this game in order to protect him in a trade but that never happened.
Nonetheless, there’s a high chance that Gallinari is traded by tomorrow’s deadline, with teams valuing his scoring abilities. Much like with Schroder, the Thunder have all the leverage and don’t have to trade Gallinari despite being on an expiring deal, there have already been rumblings of the Thunder and Gallinari working together this summer in a sign and trade in order to get OKC something back for him. If the Thunder do end up trading Gallinari soon then it will be because they liked the package they got, not because they had to trade him just for the sake of trading him.
Chris Paul and Steven Adams both had quiet games by their standards. Paul finished with 12 points on 4-9 shooting with seven assists and Adams finished with just six points and eight rebounds along with three assists. Both have been in trade rumors since last summer, but both are unlikely to get traded by tomorrow because of their massive salaries. Look for trade discussions on them to pick up during the summer when teams have more time to work out a deal. Adams was the more likely of the two to get traded this week with the Hawks being interested in pairing Trae Young with a true rolling big, but the Hawks satisfied those needs last night when they traded for Clint Capela, so the market for Adams has been dried up for now.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was great tonight, scoring 23 points on 9-17 shooting with 10 rebounds. Gilgeous-Alexander did his usual moves by orchestrating around the basket and making some pretty layups off of drives. Gilgeous-Alexander also went 2-5 from three tonight, which is encouraging considering how much he has struggled recently with his three point shot, shooting just 25.8% on 3.4 attempts a game in his last nine games. Gilgeous-Alexander will probably never be a great outside shooter, but if he can become a respectful shooter then that’ll unlock so much of his scoring potential.
Billy Donovan made the bold move of continuing to start Luguentz Dort over Terrance Ferguson, who just returned after missing the last two weeks due to a personal issue. Many assumed that Ferguson would’ve just been given back his starting spot when he returned but Donovan decided to stick with two way player Dort, citing it being best for the team and talking to Ferguson beforehand about moving him to the bench. It’s encouraging to see Ferguson back with the team and I hope everything in his life is getting better, hopefully he can find his groove as the season progresses.
Overall, this was a good team win in a game played under awkward circumstances where the giant elephant in the room was whether or not some of these guys would be on different teams 24 hours from now. Whatever happens, this has been a fun season and Sam Presti has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to figuring out what’s best for this team in the long term even if it means sacrificing the short term.