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Thunder fall 114-110 to Rockets

NBA: Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander disappointedly held his hands over his head as he walked back to the sideline after the Oklahoma City Thunder fell 114-110 to the Houston Rockets.

Oklahoma City’s star point guard, who had a season-high and team-leading 39 points on 12-for-26 shooting, watched as his mid-range pull-up jumper rolled out of the rim and into the hands of Houston center Daniel Theis with 45.4 seconds remaining on the shot clock in the fourth quarter.

From that point on, Houston nailed three-out-of-four of its free throws to seal the Oklahoma City Thunder’s (6-15) fate in its 114-110 loss to the Houston Rockets (5-16) on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

For the Thunder, notably, this is their seventh loss in 10 games – the longest losing streak of the entire regular season – against a Rockets team that was missing rookie shooting guard Jalen Green and power forward/center Christian Wood, who exited the game with an ankle injury during the first quarter.

While Gilgeous-Alexander found his groove tonight offensively, Oklahoma City looked the same as they have the past seven games – a young, gritty team that’s lost in several close games on a margin of just above seven points, on average, during the losing streak.

The Thunder held an 81-73 lead over the Rockets going into the fourth quarter, which seemed – at the time – like the Thunder were cruising to victory over Houston.

Ultimately, the Rockets and Houston small forward/power forward Jae’Sean Tate, who had a career-high 32 points on 11-for-15 shots, outscored OKC 41-29 in the fourth quarter.

Offensively, the Thunder struggled to find a rhythm in the second half, shooting 8-for-32 from the three-point line overall, so they tried to draw fouls and get to the line, but the Rockets prevailed.

“There’s a certain point where like if it’s not your night and that source of offense is turned off, you have to get grimy and figure out different ways to generate points,” head coach Mark Daigneault said. “I thought in the second half we actually did a decent job of getting the line a lot tonight. I thought, you know, we tried to run. There were some conversion plays and transitions that weren’t great but not by a fault of ours. That’s just how the game broke.”

In the shooting guard spot, Tre Mann started his first game in the absence of fellow rookie Josh Giddey, who was out with flu.

Mann, alongside Gilgeous-Alexander, set the offensive tone for Oklahoma City in the first and second halves garnering 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting, two rebounds, and a plethora of impressive finger-roll layups.

For the 18th pick in the draft, he’s just trying to find his game as the season progresses forward, significantly as Daigneault increases his minutes.

“I think (Tre Mann) – like every young basketball player – is trying to find a balance between shooting, passing, and making the right play,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of Mann’s performance. “But, like I said earlier, I think he’s getting more comfortable with it. I mean, he’s shooting his shots – shots that are good for the team, (and) that’s what it ultimately comes down to. I think he’s figured that out.”

As Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder pivot to the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (11-10) at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday in Memphis inside of the FedExForum, they strive to end their demoralizing losing streak while taking away moral victories in a season that’s destined for a high-end lottery pick by the end of the regular season.

For SGA, he wants his team to continue to look for good, efficient shots that give them the best chance to win.

“I think if we shoot good shots that are good for our team, then everything else will just fall in his place,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Obviously, everyone has bad nights. And if we shoot shots that are good for our team that we’re comfortable shooting, and we want to shoot, and then we lose. At Least we (will have) lost on our own terms.”

As Drake, who mysteriously sat courtside at the Thunder’s game, would say, “sometimes you win some, and sometimes you lose some, as long as the outcome is income.”

Much like the lyrics, Oklahoma City is just trying to learn as they continue the rebuild.