OKC Thunder player grades: Thunder fall a point shy of a 28-point comeback against the Bulls

·6 min read

Returning home did not cure the Oklahoma City Thunder’s losing streak as the team dropped its sixth straight game after playing a grueling four-game road trip, the longest of the season to date. The comforts of playing in Paycom Center for the first time in nine days were not enough to get a win for the first time in 11 days.

But the fact that the Thunder were able to turn a once-28-point deficit into just a one-point loss is an impressive feat on its own and continues the theme of the season that this team does not give up and continues to fight regardless of what the scoreboard says.

What makes this even more impressive is that the context of this game gave the Thunder even more justified reasons if they were to lose by double digits. The Thunder have played a lot of games recently — 11 games in 21 days — didn’t mix well with the fact that the 29-17 Chicago Bulls are fighting for the first seed and are one of the better teams in the NBA.

The Bulls welcomed back Zach LaVine after missing the last 10 days due to injury and contributed with 23 points and seven assists. The Bulls had three players who scored over 20 points this game in LaVine (23 points), Nikola Vucevic (26 points) and rookie Ayo Dosunmu (a career-high 23 points).

For the Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way — like he usually does — with a 31 point and 10 assist double double.

Overall, this was an exciting and encouraging loss for the Thunder. There’s no shame in losing to one of the best teams in the league by just one point. Especially when it happens after the Thunder nearly made a 28-point comeback on tired legs. Great performance and now the Thunder get a chance to rest for a bit as their next game is not until Friday. Let’s take a look at player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A+

Gilgeous-Alexander was once again fantastic as he finished with 31 points on 9-of-17 shooting along with a 11-of-14 free throw shooting night. Gilgeous-Alexander also contributed with his third double digit assist game with 10. This is now Gilgeous-Alexander’s sixth in his last eight games with at least 29 points scored.

Gilgeous-Alexander had a chance to tie the game at 110 after a pair of made LaVine free throws but just missed a 27-foot stepback three with 2.3 seconds left. That miss essentially iced the game but should not take away from just how great Gilgeous-Alexander was. He was able to attack the basket all game long and earned 14 trips to the free throw line. Gilgeous-Alexander has really made a skill as of late to drive to the basket, create contact and get fouls drawn. If he can continue to do this, efficient high scoring games will soon follow.

Lu Dort: B

Lu Dort finished this game with 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting that included going 3-of-5 from three and seven rebounds. This was a nice bounce back game for Dort as he has struggled recently, averaging just 6.5 points on 23.5 percent shooting his last two games.

It seems like this is going to be the type of offensive player Dort is going to be. He is either going to be hot or cold with his shooting with no safe middle ground. Which is what should be expected for a guy who is most likely going to be the fourth or fifth scoring option on a really good team.

Josh Giddey: B

Josh Giddey finished the game with nine points, six assists, eight rebounds and four turnovers. Giddey struggled outside of the paint this game and took some really bad long twos that resulted in misses. But besides the scoring troubles, Giddey was able to contribute with his passing and rebounding. Unfortunately, that also resulted a good amount of turnovers, which I am not discouraged by. Turnovers are going to come when someone is one of the lead initiators of an offense, you just have to hope that the turnovers come from a result of Giddey trying to thread the needle and not from sloppy ball security. Which, to Giddey’s credit, it appears the former was the case this game.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl: A

This was one of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl’s better games of the season as he finished with 12 points, three assists, three rebounds, two steals and a loud block.

The most encouraging thing about the rookie’s game is the fact that he went 4-of-6 from three. Robinson-Earl’s three point percentage has dipped each month this season: 46.2 percent in Oct., 36 percent in Nov., 30.2 percent in Dec. and 25.7 percent in Jan. So for him to have a good 4-of-6 night from three is a big positive for Robinson-Earl as he tries to establish himself in the league as a stretch four/five.

Mike Muscala: A

Mike Muscala made the most of his minutes as he scored 14 points in 15 minutes. It looks like Muscala isn’t gun shy either as he shot 5-of-12 from the field, with most of those coming from three at a 4-of-11 clip.

Kenrich Williams: B

The other veteran off the bench, Kenrich Williams, did not score the ball as well as Muscala with just six points on 2-of-10 shooting but contributed in other ways with seven rebounds and two assists.

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