In a perfect loss, the Oklahoma City Thunder fall short to the Utah Jazz, 110-104.
Heading into the season, many fans hoped that the Thunder lose a lot of games in a similar fashion to tonight; close, competitive losses that were led by the performances of the young core.
Well, tonight was a textbook example of this.
The Jazz, who many consider being a Western Conference contender, needed a Donovan Mitchell takeover late in the fourth quarter to squeeze by the rebuilding Thunder team missing its best player in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
“These last couple of games, we’re making teams beat us,” said Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault postgame. “They had to beat us tonight and that’s the type of team we wanna have.”
The Thunder’s second and third most important players of its future stepped up big tonight in Lu Dort and Josh Giddey.
Dort finished with 27 points and did a fantastic job all night at hounding Mitchell when matched up against him by sticking with him and fighting over screens. This performance also includes the fact that Dort shot an efficient 5-of-12 from three. It seems like Dort has Utah’s number after scoring a career-high 42 points against them last season. Tonight is another game to add to the collection for the third-year guard.
If Dort continues to turn in performances like tonight where he is a menace on both sides, his next contract will be quite the upgrade over what he is currently making. Players who can defend and shoot the ball at Dort’s level are a high demand in today’s game. Soon, his paycheck will reflect that.
I’m beginning to run out of superlatives to describe Giddey’s game. He just continues to impress and continues to build a serious case for Rookie of the Year. In tonight’s edition, the rookie finished with 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. This included exchanging scoring blows with Mitchell late in the game — a role that is usually reserved for the missing SGA. But with SGA out, Giddey had to pinch-hit and he almost hit a grand slam.
When you share an exclusive club with LeBron James and LaMelo Ball, I think it’s fair to say that the Thunder made the most of their unfortunates when they landed the sixth overall pick of this past draft.
Overall, this was a fun and competitive game that continues the trend of the Thunder fighting back in games they have no business in being in beyond halftime. The foundation of a strong culture is there and the intangible concept is finally producing tangible results.
Daigneault mentioned before the game that SGA will probably miss the next two games as well on Friday and Monday against the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets. SGA sprained his ankle in the Boston Celtics game and has now missed two games due to the injury. Expect the team to be extra cautious with this injury and not push their franchise player to return to the court until he is fully healthy.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl did a great job on both ends. On offense, he finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. On defense, he did a great job at limiting Rudy Gobert. I know the Thunder’s defense really does not rely on man matchups and play a little bit more zone with schemes to defend the rim due to the absence of a true big man, but it’s still impressive to see that Gobert was limited to just seven shots all night in a matchup he should have theoretically dominated.
Aaron Wiggins received a “spot start” tonight as he will soon return to the G League according to Daigneault. The two-way player didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but Daigneault said he was impressed with how he was able to make Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson earn their points.
Daigneault also mentioned that his wife and child — Alex John Daigneault or “A.J.” for short — are healthy and happy and back home. Daigneault missed the team’s three-game road trip to attend the birth of his child. In his absence, Thunder Assistant Dave Bliss took over and was praised by Daigneault for the job he did and how quality of a basketball coach he is in general.
Next Game: The Washington Wizards come to town to take on the Thunder on Friday, Nov. 25.