Now that’s more like it.
After two straight back-to-back blowout losses to start the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to make it a game against the Philadelphia 76ers — but still fell short, 115-103.
Playing for the first time in front of a Thunder home crowd in 592 days, the team looked much more composed and on the same page tonight.
The Thunder trailed by double digits for most of the game, but it never felt like they were completely out of it. There were multiple points throughout the game where OKC making a run to close the gap was within reach.
Nonetheless, the final score says the Thunder lost by 12 points, but it felt a lot closer throughout the entire night.
Outside the fact that this game was much more competitively close compared to the first two, another great sign from tonight is the fact that this was the best performances of the young season for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Lu Dort — Arguably three of the Thunder’s most prized prospects and best players.
After a bit of a slow start to his season, SGA looked like the player he was last season. The four-year-guard finished with 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
SGA was very aggressive on his drives all night and was rewarded with 12 free throw attempts because of it. Scoring a high number of points on great efficiency was SGA’s calling card last season and this was the first game of the year that falls under this category.
Shai is cooking.— Thunder Film Room (@ThunderFilmRoom) October 25, 2021
barbecue chicken is tonight’s meal. pic.twitter.com/0J2ZJg44cy
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is nuts pic.twitter.com/kEm4nJmCbo— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) October 25, 2021
Hopefully, this trends continues as SGA tries to show the rest of the league why he is one of the best young players and a rising star.
It felt like the first couple of games for Giddey were for him to dip his toes in the water and get a taste of NBA competition. Tonight, the rookie was much more aggressive and assertive. Giddey was rewarded with his best game of the season, as he finished with 19 points, six assists and eight rebounds.
Josh Giddey fast break pass.. he’s so skilled pic.twitter.com/h5NV6LEPz3— Thunder Film Room (@ThunderFilmRoom) October 25, 2021
When asked about his scoring aggressiveness tonight, Giddey mentioned that he spent the first couple of games playing at a frantic pace as he learned to adjust to the NBA. He said for tonight’s game, he played at a much slower pace.
Three games in and it seems like Giddey’s signature scoring move is his floater. He tried it multiple times tonight and was able to cash in.
When asked why he took more floaters tonight compared to the previous two contests, Giddey said that he was able to take advantage of the 76ers’ drop coverage and was able to attack lanes easier.
The 19-year-old’s scoring is still very much a work in progress, but his floater is a nice building block, and after scoring just 10 total points the first two games, he should use it more often as he gains confidence in his scoring abilities.
Josh Giddey floater..— Thunder Film Room (@ThunderFilmRoom) October 24, 2021
chef’s kiss pic.twitter.com/DC2aq8JF6l
The highlight of the night for Giddey came late in the game, when Joel Embiid contested his shot at the rim and basically landed on him as they both fell. Giddey took a moment to get up, hobbled a bit, but told the training staff he was fine.
He would proceed to hit both free throws, steal the ball on the other end and hit a three. That sequence of events should excite Thunder fans due to the resilience the rookie has. Being landed on by a 7’0, 280 pound specimen would shock most, but Giddey was able to shrug it off and make some impressive plays afterwards.
Dort finished with eight points and seven rebounds. He was also very active on the defensive end. Dort has had a very nice start to his season, but tonight was his best game of the three. Dort was aggressive with his shot and did not deter from attacking the rim.
When asked why he was more aggressive tonight compared to the first couple games, Dort mentioned that he wanted to energize the team and will continue to do so if that’s what the team needs.
Overall, this was a very encouraging performance from the Thunder. The team looked in synched and three of the Thunder’s most important players played great. If most games end up following the same formula where the team loses — but not by a huge margin — and the young players show signs of development and improvement, then this season will be filed under as a success.
Next Game: Thunder welcome the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, Oct. 26.