The Oklahoma City Thunder (0-1) lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves (1-0) 115-108 during its first game of the 2022-23 season Wednesday night in Minneapolis.
Despite missing the preseason with an MCL sprain, fifth-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder in scoring, notching 32 points on 12-for-23 shooting with six rebounds and five assists in his debut.
Here are three initial takeaways from the Thunder’s loss:
SGA dazzles in Minnesota
It had been nearly seven months since Gilgeous-Alexander played NBA basketball, but that didn’t stop the guard from dazzling in his debut.
He was off to a quick start with 11 points before halftime, highlighting the offense with a spin cycle layup off the glass with 8:13 remaining in the first quarter.
Gilgeous-Alexander continued his offensive prowess with a plethora of buckets in the second half, scoring a pivotal six-straight points in the fourth quarter.
He started with a driving layup, then a 25-foot 3-pointer and finally a single free-throw following a technical foul from Timberwolves forward Karl Anthony-Towns. His scoring brought Oklahoma City within four points with 2:08 remaining in the game.
Ultimately, Gilgeous-Alexander was 1-for-3 for the rest of the quarter, which contributed to the Thunder’s eventual loss in the closing minutes.
Oklahoma City struggles to defend Gobert inside
The Thunder entered the season with one center listed on their roster, and that disadvantage was prevalent against All-Star center Rudy Gobert.
Karl-Anthony Towns lob to Rudy Gobert for the dunk, wow pic.twitter.com/AhZBmpc1jc— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) October 20, 2022
Gobert scored a then-game-high 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting in the first half against forward Aleksej Pokusevski, who made a surprise start at the five. The 7-foot-1, 258-pound center finished with 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting and 20 points in the paint.
Rudy Gobert steal + buzzer-beater floater pic.twitter.com/ucMGOWKrIp— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) October 20, 2022
His dominance set the tone for Minnesota, which outscored Oklahoma City 50-38 in the lane Despite the Timberwolves’ size advantage, the Thunder outrebounded Minnesota 57-55, however.
Gobert’s size differential proved to be the difference in the game against the Thunder
Third quarter run falls short
The Thunder went on a 27-5 run in the third quarter, outscoring the Timberwolves 35-22 and taking its first lead of the game.
After the third, Minnesota recovered defensively, however, limiting Oklahoma City’s offense to a game-low 21 points in the fourth quarter.
From that point, Oklahoma City — after clawing back from a 16-point deficit — couldn’t complete the comeback against its Northwest Division rival.
After losing its first game of the season, the Thunder will face the Denver Nuggets at 8:00 p.m. CT on Saturday, Oct. 22 in Denver.